Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"31 Days of Spielberg" and plagiarism

Before proceeding with "31 Days of Spielberg" (I'm already a couple days behind schedule but it can wait; this is more important and should be dealt with swiftly and directly), I wanted to take some time and address a rather serious issue that has arisen recently. In case you were unaware of the situation, I have been accused of plagiarism in my writings here on this blog, particularly in my early posts on "Eyes," Columbo and Duel and specifically with regard to a book called Directed by Steven Spielberg: Poetics of the Hollywood Blockbuster by Warren Buckland (you can read the charges on a thread here at spielbergfilms.com where passages in Buckland's book and my blog are compared). Now, as much as I would like to simply deny the claims and say "No, I've never read Buckland's book! I don't know what you're talking about. It's purely a coincidence!" I can't do that. It's not that simple.

In fact, I have read Buckland's book. It was one of many sources I used in my research for this project before the month of August began. I found it to be a very helpful and very insightful text (and can recommend it to anyone interested in analysing the specific filmmaking techniques of Spielberg). I agreed with quite a number of Buckland's observations and consequently found myself adopting some of his conclusions. For the purposes of the blog I wanted to incorporate the ideas which we both shared (along with several ideas which I know arose out of me spontaneously since I take notes on the films as I view them) into the final essays. In the actual process of writing, and as all writers should (they teach you this when you write research papers in Jr. High), I tried to "put it in my own words," but I found Buckland's descriptions of what actually occurred on the screen were quite apt and as I tried to describe the same shots myself, I found it very difficult to not refer to him on more than one occasion. In the end, I probably "leaned" on his writing more than I ought to have (to the point that it became difficult for even me to tell where his ideas ended and mine began). I realize, of course, that copying someone else's phrasing but simply changing a word here and there does not qualify something as an original writing and I can assure you that my intent was not to plagiarize anyone nor to pass off another author's hard work as my own. I merely wanted to write as intelligent, well-informed and well-researched (but still personal) a piece on Spielberg as I could. It may seem like that should be easy to do, but when you're the one sitting in your chair staring at the blank computer screen, it can be quite a daunting task.

In retrospect, I see that my biggest mistake was in not citing Buckland's book specifically or even throwing out a simple acknowledgement in the form of a "My thinking on this subject has been heavily influenced by Warren Buckland" or merely quoting his passages outright (which, incidentally, I do with other writers/critics elsewhere throughout the project and I always try to explicitly mention the source) but attributing them to him. This is really about giving credit where it's due and in that regard, I admit that I failed and I am sorry. I can offer no excuse except to say (and this is not really an excuse, just an explanation) that it was very early on in the project and I hadn't yet found the "rhythm" by which I was operating. I lacked confidence in the approach I had planned to take toward the material. I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn't know how to get there at first. I was not fully comfortable in the writing process, but as the days continued (and with the help of a constant deadline) I found it became much easier to, as I mentioned in the beginning of my entry on Jaws, simply say what I wanted to say and not worry about whether or not it has been said before (and in no doubt more eloquent fashion) by someone else. The hardest part of anything is always getting started; taking that first step. Once you get going, however, the pressure and insecurity seems to ease off significantly.

In an attempt to prove that I am not trying to hide anything from anybody, I wanted to let everyone know that since the plagiarism claims first surfaced I have been corresponding with Warren Buckland (which is in itself a humbling turn of events; I never anticipated this project would bring me into contact with actual published authors who have written on Spielberg, even if it's not under the best of circumstances). We have discussed the matter, I have apologized for any wrongdoing for which I might have been responsible and I have agreed to temporarily remove the three posts in question ("Eyes," Columbo and Duel) and revise them so as to satisfy everyone (hopefully) that they have come from me alone and from nobody else. I will still continue with "31 Days of Spielberg." My commitment to that has not wavered in the slightest. In fact, the writing of the essay on Schindler's List (which immeditately follows this next one on Jurassic Park) is one of the reasons why I undertook this project in the first place since that film has been a hugely significant one in my life.

Finally, I wanted to apologize to my readers. I hope I have not disappointed you or betrayed your trust in any way. Many of you have been very kind and generous with your praise all along and even through this recent turn of events several of you have been very supportive and encouraging and I thank you for that. However, I am not doing--nor have I ever done--this for praise, for esteem, for glory, for fame and certainly not for money. One thing I have never lost sight of is that in the big scheme of things, I am a nobody. I am a thirty-one-year-old video store clerk who lives in Corvallis, Oregon. I make little more than minumim wage a year and I happen to love movies. I never intended for this blog to be anything more than an expression of one little guy's passion and affection for cinema. Thus, I began this "Spielberg" project because I admire Spielberg and his films and I wanted to share that admiration with other people and maybe--just maybe--even spark a little bit of discussion on him because I personally don't think that enough can ever be said about this great artist. I never, ever anticipated this thing would catch on as much as it has (and I am not saying that to relieve me of my responsibilities as a writer) nor did I ever expect to be mentioned in the same sentence as professional, educated authors who have contributed greatly to the conversation about Spielberg. In spite of the way things have turned out, I am still glad that I've been able to participate in the discussion, even if only in a very minor capacity. This has been a learning experience for me too and I can assure you that I am learning a lot from it.


Thank you once again for your kind attention.


Sincerely,

Damian Arlyn

101 comments:

Joshua said...

Bravo, Damian. Welcome to the pros.

Now shake off that brushback and keep swinging. You've earned - yes, earned - the one thing that 99% of writers lack: a captive audience.

Dinosaurs, please...

Megan said...

Hey Damian I am so glad you are working things out! I read the accusation and your response, and I am going to continue reading your blog. I have been nervous all day and hoping you were going to continue in spite of some similarities (all of which, by the way, seem to be confined to the 'synopsis' section of your posts).

I agree w/ Josh. Bring on the dinos.

Jonathan said...

Regardless of anything, the pieces you've written on this blog have been some of the most interesting and insightful and well-written that I've seen on any blog.

You haven't betrayed anyone's trust. Anyway that writes leans and relies on outside sources. It's a part of writing and I believe that you would give credit where credit was due before it was all said an done.

Keep up the good work, mate. I'll be reading.

RAR said...

Don't sweat it. You're aces in my book and you do something very rare on blogs, forum and talkbacks, you talk to people.

Aristides said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karsten said...

Dear Damian,

I'm a reader from Norway - haven't commented on your blog earlier. I've been following your writing closely for some months now, and I truly appreciate your whole spectrum of writing. I knew nothing of these accusations until your humble post here now, but I can assure you that I find your humility and respect an even better reason to support your site and efforts with my two reading eyes.

Please keep up your magnificent enthusiasm, and I'm positive that your skills and talent will only grow from this.

(And also, I agree with all the above commenters... looking forward to what you decide to write on "Catch me if you can".)

Best regards,
Karsten

Jeff McMahon said...

Keep up the good work.

Piper said...

Damian,

What a kooky world in which we live.

Don't let the bastards keep you down.

Nell Minow said...

Your candor and acceptance of responsibility further demonstrate your integrity and insight. Well done.

Weigard said...

Aristides said...
That was extremely good form, Jack. That's exactly how you handle it.


Since you've just posted about Hook, I hate to imagine what would be involved with "bad form". :O

Well done, Damian. Your posts have been great -- thank you for all your hard work!

Penman said...

Sorry, but I feel like that senator in Quiz Show who, after all the other senators kiss Ralph Fiennes' ass for being "brave" for finally copping to his cheating, reminds everyone present that Van Doren broke faith and shouldn't be praised for merely coming clean about his wrongdoing.

That's how I feel. I have a Ph.D in English and teach college composition and literature, and what Damian did is exactly what savvier student plagiarists do: They copy outright and then "cover tracks" by changing a word here and there.

For all the different kinds of plagiarism I've seen--and I've seen a lot of 'em--Damian's kind is the one that most clearly demonstrates intent to deceive and consciousness of wrongdoing.

So I can't join in with the other commenters here with the "atta boys" and "chin up, kids."

I've been reading every day since Matt linked here, and I was looking forward to more.

But it stinks here, now. I won't be coming back.

Damian said...

To everyone:

Thank you for your kind words, but penman is correct. One shouldn't be praised for "at long last telling the truth" and I regret the decision I ever made in the first place during my initial stab at writing for this project.

The irony is that as an acting exercise I did the speech that Ralph Feinnes delivers at the climax of Quiz Show to an audience many years ago. I never thought I would end up in my own real-life parallel situation. Just as Ralph's character in the film loses his job at the university as a consequence for his actions, I have lost my place as a contributor to the House Next Door (and appopriately so; although I would love to have remained a contributor I don't blame them for their decision at all) and I shall have to deal with the public shame associated with it.

At the very least, I can now sympathize with the character that Feinnes plays. I understand the temptation one feels to take "the easy road" in any situation. Doing the right thing is rarely doing hr easy thing. The lesson here is that we are all susceptible. Don't ever think yourself above doing what you see someone else doing in a film/play/story, because that's the first step to becoming them. Believe me, I know.

Remember: "There but for the grace of God, go I."

Joe said...

When Reservoir Dogs came out, some bitter face in the crowd did a scene-by-scene comparison of a Hong Kong film called City On Fire. Someone else confronted Tarantino about his blatant plagiarism at a film festival. Tarantino's response: "I steal from every film ever made."

Perfect. Good writers borrow. Great writers steal.

Taking ideas and adding your own to express something completely unique is not plagiarism.

Summarizing the films of Steven Spielberg is not plagiarism. I see no evidence that Damian is changing a couple of words and trying to pass off someone else's writing as his own.

I wish people like "penman" and that Starbucks intellect who wanted to light up a message board would just go away, go far, far away. Ugh.

Jeff McMahon said...

Damian screwed up. He apologized. End of story.

Jen said...

I came here via House Next Door and though I'm sad that you won't be linked there anymore, I'll certainly be back to read the rest of your pieces on Spielberg. I'm sorry you did what you did and I'm glad you've decided to be honest about it, but your admitted acts of plagiarism do not lessen my enjoyment of these pieces at all. Please, keep 'em comin'.

(By the way, I'm from McMinnville originally. Willamette Valley represent!)

Tucker said...

Damian, as you could have guessed, I have been following this whole plagiarism “thing” somewhat closely. Having spent a number of years in academia I know all about how sensitive the issue can be. But, because I know you, and know your heart, I also know that you are truly not a plagiarist, and do not intend to be one. As I see it, this is a learning experience for you, and I believe it can be a very positive one too. My biggest concern was for you and how you would handle it. I’m sure you’ve been in some turmoil. I have to say that I think you have dealt with the whole thing extremely well. The concerns that a very few others have raised about plagiarism highlight the fact that your 31 Days of Spielberg is a wonderful and substantial project that many more are finding both enjoyable and of quality. I believe you have many more readers than you realize, and your writing is outstanding. Keep moving forward and put this correctable issue behind you. Everything can be set right quite easily, and what ‘s most important is that you keep moving forward in the best way you can. Great job all around!

btw, as an old film production professor of mine used to say, somewhat tongue in cheek, when talking about being creatively influenced by the ideas of others, “amateurs borrow, professionals steal.” (I’m sure he was quoting someone else himself.) In other words, have confidence that you can take other’s ideas and truly make them your own. Damian, you are proving with each post that you have more than enough capability to tackle your subject and present it well.

Craig said...

Yes, bravo Damian. You have dealt with getting caught red-handed extremely well. How very noble of you to have fessed up AFTER getting caught, rather than simply acknowledging the author beforehand. And how very elitist of those who have the gall to claim that others should be credited for their own ideas. I'm sure you would have done it anyway. Let me add my huzzah to those of the peanut gallery here. Incidentally, where are all of you stealing your ideas from, since it's obvious from the echoing here that nary an original thought exists among you?

joe gumbo said...

I take issue with your remark that you're 'nobody'. You're a talented somebody who goofed, fixed it & moved on. Looking forward to the rest of the month's entries... I invite those posters who want to take this opportunity to rub your nose in their "superiority" to kindly jump up their own asses.

Withnail said...

Ya fucked up.

Wanna know how to keep from plagiarizing in the future?

Write.

foundry brook said...

Every creator (writer, director, actor, painter, musician, etc., etc.) is influenced, borrows and steals from others. For some it doesn't matter and for others it does. The more you move into the public eye, the more it matters. You crossed the line. Now you have made the line bolder with public humility. Learn from it, put it behind you and keep writing.

Dennis said...

I'll tell you what, Damian. I make quite a bit more than minimum wage, but I couldn't possibly have written the eloquent essays you have, not including the controversial early ones, which I did not read.

I, too, am sorry that The House Next Door won't be linking any longer, but I intend to continue reading and will provide my own links to you for at least the remainder of this project.

I guess according to some I should be more outraged about this, but the vast majority of what you wrote is wholly original, and certainly everything that I've read, so I'll just confess a lack of appropriate sophistication in this regard and just keep reading. How's that?

Dennis said...

One more thing I'd like to add to the discussion is that, as a result of this controversy, I intend to seek out and read Mr. Buckland's book, and that's probably not something that would have happened under ordinary circumstances.

Thus, one unforeseen consequence of this situation is that Mr. Buckland will gain at least one reader, probably more than one, actually, as I'm just not that unique.

Megan said...

Quite the cross-section of reactions here. I think it's a 'storm in a teacup' myself but I'm almost afraid to say that because, you know, it's not, like, original, or anything. I guess that makes me a peanut, as Craig so eloquently put it. Well, if that is so, it looks like I am in a pretty good bag of peanuts right now. Let's move on?

Burbanked said...

Damian, I come here and read your posts first and foremost because I value your writing. Your writing, your analysis and insight and passion. You may have copied some text, but you haven't faked all of that other stuff as indeed no true writers can. I'm not a huge fan of the way you did it, but you've apologized, made efforts to atone, and all of that is good enough for me.

I guess "no man is a nobody who has a blog that others read". If we're willing to put it out there, we'd better be damn willing to assume that anyone - and everyone - may actually be reading it. It's not such a bad problem to have, but it's an important challenge to live up to, as you've illustrated for us all.

DISCLAIMER: comment author has willfully mangled a popular piece of cinematic lore in order to make his point. Feel free to get your panties into a bunch and complain copiously about it.

sleeper said...

I'm kind of amazed to see that the majority of comments here boil down to "Don't let this plaigarism thing get you down, buddy! You're awesome!"

Plaigarism is *totally* a betrayal of trust. Some of the folks who think otherwise probably only think so because they've done it themselves. The person who quoted "Good artists borrow, great artists steal" is further evidence, if anyone needed it, that there's no knotty moral issue in this society that can't be summarily dismissed with a pithy catchphrase.

As Damian says, he read some stuff, decided he agreed with it and liked the wording of it, and so plugged it into his own writing and passed it off as his own. The only thing that separates this from your basic college-student-cheating-on-a-term-paper act of plaigarism is that Damian didn't really stand to gain from doing it, and that he did at least understand the text he was plaigarizing (I used to work as a writing tutor, and I lost count of the number of times I would ask a student what they meant by a particular awkwardly-worded statement, and they would say, "I don't know...it's something the instructor always says in class...I'll take it out.").

Apologizing profusely and candidly when you get caught is not remotely a demonstration of "integrity and insight." It's a survival tactic; it's damage control. Damian is probably a swell guy in most respects, but that's no reason to haul out the bucket of whitewash when he does something wrong. He seems to have learned a lesson from this. It's sad to see that so many of his readers haven't.

What exactly is a "Starbucks intellect," anyway?

bill said...

Damien has apologized, he seems sincere, and he is working with Buckland to get that end of things taken care of. Good. Moving on may well be a fine idea.

But please, would you people stop acting so superior to those of us who were either angered or who take this sort of thing seriously? Supporting Damien after he's apologized and is making ammends is all well and good, but can you truly not understand why some people are upset? I mean, Christ, where were you when Jayson Blair needed you?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

We don’t live in a vacuum, and we certainly don’t write in one. It seems a given that anyone taking on a subject like the filmed output of perhaps the most popular director of all time, next to Alfred Hitchcock, is going to run up against similar observations similarly stated when describing specific moments in any given film. Further, if one particular book, in addition into the films themselves, is being used as source material, it shouldn’t be too surprising that some of those descriptions should end up sounding similar to that source material. (“JustAnotherFan” on the Spielberg forum cited several examples, but I imagine anyone could research the matter and cite a heavy percentage of observations that had no parallel in Buckland or the other books.) I would even say that, even if you hadn’t been aware of Buckland’s book, how many different ways are there to describe the very specific events in the films that “JAF” points out? Despite the obvious instances cited where the phrasing is uncomfortably similar, there is plenty of your own craft and sensibility on display in the rest of the “31 Days of Spielberg.”

My question is, was there a point in which you yourself became uncomfortable with how close your text was to Buckland’s?

Beyond the similar phrasing of observations, what I find more troubling, Damian, is the second example “JAF” cites from the Columbo section, which is apparently an only very slightly rephrased opinion regarding Spielberg’s “increasing confidence as a director.” This simple observation, one that I don’t for a minute doubt you disagree with, betrays a reliance on the author’s conclusions and not just his descriptive abilities. Both descriptions and conclusions are elements that, it seems to me, are valid material to use in writing your own piece if they are not just being parroted, but expanded upon, reimagined, examined—in other words, made your own.

I think it’s pretty obvious that the biggest misstep you made here is in not acknowledging right at the start the various books you were familiar with, books you read, books that inspired you, books that others undoubtedly have read. Maybe you could have even conceived the entire series as being an extension of ideas presented originally in Buckland’s tome. Personally, I think you would have, as you have said, made the acknowledgements once the series was finished. But even that would have been inviting similar criticism, when it could have been deflected much more credibly had your readers been made aware of Buckland right at the start.

I regret that Matt found it necessary to make the decision he did regarding The House Next Door. But, given Matt’s reputation as a professional journalist, and given my awareness of the standards he attempts to apply to those who contribute to his site (which has much more the trappings of a professional film journal than it did in its origins as a more casual blog), I understand his reaction. I also understand the reactions of those who may feel your credibility has taken too big a hit and who may decide not to come back to Windmills. Plaigiarism, and the charges of it, are nothing to be taken lightly, whether you’re a paid journalist or someone who does it for the love of writing about your subject. Personally, I don’t know anyone who calls him/herself a writer who hasn’t confronted this issue in one way or another somewhere along their path. I even worked for an editor at a newspaper in Oregon who hired me as a film reviewer and then suggested that one of the ways I could do my job would be to skim the Village Voice and other sources, rewrite those reviews and pass them off as my own. (I did not choose this option.) Myself, I intend to keep reading your work and hopefully watching you gain even more confidence in your own abilities as a result of all of this. As the reader above me said, you can “learn from it, put it behind you, and keep writing.” That’s what writers do.

Tucker said...

Regarding: The person who quoted "Good artists borrow, great artists steal" is further evidence, if anyone needed it, that there's no knotty moral issue in this society that can't be summarily dismissed with a pithy catchphrase.

If this is in response to my comments, then I would agree that it is a pithy catchphrase, but not in order to “dismiss” anything. (It is also a widely used phrase, often to get people thinking about these “knotty” moral issues.) The questions of influence, quoting, attributing, and originality are very big questions indeed. In our day when just about anything can be appropriated and copied endlessly makes it all the more difficult to sort out. We are swamped in “borrowing.” I’m sure the amount of un-attributed quoting on the Internet is staggering. I also find it interesting just how much un-attributed sampling there is in music, how many great artists lifted their images from previous artists, and how often bloggers post copyrighted material on their blogs. I can say that I have made copies of my friends CDs and did not pay for them. I do not say this to get anybody of any hook (least of all me), but it is the water we swim in, and it poses a lot of questions for us to sort through. But maybe it is a different cat when it comes to writing.

How does an artist or writer gain from their study and observation and yet still product original work? I believe this is a much more complex process than we often realize. If it is true that there are very few original ideas in the world, then those who can take what they’ve gleaned and truly produce something of their own are on to something. My point in my post above is to say that seeking that “something”, that way to make ideas truly one’s own, is the goal. As I said in my previous comments, “In other words, have confidence that you can take other’s ideas and truly make them your own.” That is what every great philosopher does. The alternative is to properly quote and then clearly attribute, which is what obviously should have been done with Buckland’s words. I do not have an answer, but I wonder if there are different degrees of plagiarism depending on such things as context, intent, the medium used, the personal vs. public nature of the writing, the sophistication of the writer, the expectations on the writer, and other such things. Just a thought.

And nothing I am saying here is intended to diminish my stance of plagiarism – which I, of course, hold to be wrong (but not without complexity too). I would contend that one can look at the actions of a person and have moral outrage (but of course not to the point of self-righteousness) and look at the person and offer grace. For who among us doesn’t need heaps and heaps of grace? The goal is not to say, “hey, it’s no big deal,” when it is. The goal is to seek wisdom and seek to be loving people in the midst of ours, and others failings. Call a spade a spade, and “know thyself” – to quote another pithy catchphrase. ;)

I will admit that I am a good friend of Damian’s and I love his 31 Days of Spielberg project. I too have issues with how he has produced some of this series. And I want to be clear that I am not writing these comments to defend him. He has taken his steps, many others have chimed in, and we will all decide for ourselves.

Finally, while everyone can admit that plagiarism is wrong, there certainly is no one response, no one emotional reaction for everyone. Some will walk away, some will be bent out of shape, some will brush it off, some will try to offer sympathy, etc. If one says “hang in there” that does not signify that no concerns lie under that statement. And if one expresses moral outrage, that does not mean there is no sympathy. We should seek to be honest in our humanity and help each other to be honest as well.

Megan said...

Bravo, Tucker. I'm with you.

foundry brook said...

In response to some of the harsher critics here, consider the forum. Damien is not a student. He is not working for the NY Times. He is not earning a degree or a paycheck. He is an enthusiastic fan and an unknown, possibly ambitious writer. I never heard of the guy before Monday when a friend sent me a link. I have no reason to defend him except that I enjoyed reading his work. I am not even that big a Spielberg fan (don't get me wrong--obviously the guy is one of the most important filmakers of our time--I'm just more a Coen Bros kinda guy).

The blog is a relatively new form of journalism and could, at one extreme, be categorized as a private diary flung open to the public wherein he may copy, paraphrase, lie, steal, cheat in any way he chooses because it is a personal log (though his readership would surely dwindle and legislation may catch up—but given the popularity of some political pundits, honesty and readership needn’t necessarily relate in the expected way). If he were a student proving himself worthy of a degree from a prestigious institution and he cheated then he would be expelled and good riddance. If he were writing for the NY Times, he would be terminated and ostracized from future employment in the legitimate press. In each case, he would have violated an explicit and ancient code and his transgression would be worthy of our harshest criticism.

What we have here appears to be a young talent posting his efforts for his personal satisfaction and our enjoyment (and scrutiny) with no promise of anything in return. No one has been cheated out of a better grade from curve busting, no one has been cheated out of a profit, no one has been cheated out of a job. No one paid 50 cents to read his above-the-fold story or op-ed piece. There is no expectation of integrity beyond the surface. The only ethical considerations are implied. He cheated. He got caught. He owned up to it. He is in contact with the relevant author. His credibility is diminished. What would you have him do? Quit writing? What would you have us do? Use harsher language? Dwell on it a bit longer? How harsh and how long the condemnation? Is there no difference between a blog entry and a fabricated story in the Newspaper of Record? Shall we apply the same ethical standards to a blogger and a doctoral candidate? Whose status is diminished by that comparison?

Megan said...

Sorry, I know I said move on, but I have one more post on this subject. This is a copy of what I posted on House Next Door, but since the blogger there has to approve it, I don't know if it will show or not. Therefore I recreate it here.

I did post several comments that indicate my reaction to Damian's plagiarism is "What's the big deal? He did it, he apologized, he's fixing it, let's forgive him and move on. It wasn't really that bad anyway." After reading some of the posts here and on other related sites, I get the feeling that some of you feel the only possible reaction is more along the lines of "This is a terribly bad thing! How can we trust him any longer? He's a thief and a liar!"

Yes Damian you are. Yes Bill I can understand your outrage. But sins can be forgiven. And maybe some of you think I am monumentally ignorant, but I will continue to think "it wasn't really that bad anyway." If it was my book that was abused in such a way, I can't imagine (if I found out about it at all) that I would care all that much. Not even if this blog was getting a million hits a day and Steven Spielberg himself admitted to reading it. In fact, I'd be flattered to have a fledgling writer use my book as his base camp, especially if he showed some promise.

It's a blog. It is an online diary. It's a conversation that, for the convenience of the participants, is written instead of spoken. Pretend we are having a great conversation. If I use a quotation and I don't tell you where it came from and you didn't know it was a quotation anyway, is there a consequence? Do you suffer because your opinion of my intelligence is now, at least partially, based on a lie? Do I suffer? Is it unfair to you? Is it unfair to me? Well, yes to all those things. But does it negate all that was good about the conversation and mean we should never have another one? I say no.

Joe said...

Great thread. There's the creative types, and there's the law and order types. Each side of the fence amuses me the way they see the world.

"penman", "bill" and "sleeper" seem to be law and order types and I can respect where they're coming from, even if I'm never going to see eye to eye with them on this issue.

I'm a creative type, and I'm all for bending the so-called rules of society. When you screw up, take responsibility, admit it and learn from your mistakes. What more could you ask from Damian?

Jurassic Park. Can't wait.

Piper said...

I have been a reader of Damian's blog from when he first started. I have read of lot of his writing and have found it to be thoughtful and inspiring. While I don't agree with what has happened here, I am not outraged because I have seen Damian display his writing talent again and again, long before 31 Days Of Spielberg.

Windmills of My Mind is not a book, a publication nor a formal film blog. For that reason, everyone needs to get off their high horse. If you are so outraged by this, then go away and don't come back. I myself will stay.

Hilts said...

To those who rush to absolve Damian, especially those who use the argument that he is -- and this is paraphrase, not a judgment -- a nobody getting nothing out of this, a few comments:

Though you wouldn't recognize my name, I'm a writer whose work was once plagiarized, actually by writer whose name at least some of you might know: a high-paid, well-schooled, well-respected journalist. Very long story short, I confronted the writer and his article ripping off mine was eventually removed from online circulation.

Now, it's true that Damian is not an official journalist. It's also true that he's not a practiced writer. And I'll even go so far as to give him the benefit of the doubt that he truly believed at the time that he wasn't doing anything wrong. The beauty of blogging is that it lets amateurs without practiced editors have a voice. But that's its danger, too.

But in the end, wrong is still wrong, and Damian's use of another person's words and, in some cases, specific ideas without attribution was exactly that: wrong.

To those so quick to defend him, I ask you to imagine if you'd stumbled across his Windmills site and then found that over on Matt Zoller Seitz's House Next Door site that someone else was borrowing from Damian's writing without attribution. Or, heck, imagine if all they did was steal his idea to do '31 days of Spielberg' and then wrote original pieces. I'm sure that those of you who had found enjoyment in reading Damian's work would be upset. And deservedly so. Credit wouldn't be going where credit was due.

Well, just because Damian is the little guy in this equation doesn't change that he made a serious error in judgment, even if it was an honest mistake.

I think the most astute observation in this whole series of comments is Damian's: that he shouldn't be praised for at long last telling the truth. I can't argue with that.

However, I'm not suggesting that Damian doesn't deserve a second chance, and I believe his apologies are sincere. But, please, let's not pretend that his unattributed use of another author's work lives in some gray area and is somehow okay. It was wrong, in Technicolor.

Still, as someone who encourages others to write, I admit that I feel for Damian that his blunder has had to play out so publicly. My gut tells me he's probably losing sleep over this, and maybe that's deserved punishment, but I still wish him the best and I feel for him.

Damian, egregious mistake aside, I echo what some other posters have said: keep writing. I have no doubt that you'll continue to find and grow confident in your own voice. And when someday you inspire someone else, I hope that they give you the credit you'll deserve. You'll be owed it, just like Buckland was owed his.

Megan said...

Damian may we talk about Jurassic Park now? I am dying to compare the book to the film. C'mon let me convince you that such a thing is a-o-kay. Plus, this movie has Jeff Goldblum in it, and anything New Jersey says is good in my book...

Eddie said...

megan: why don't you just read dr. buckland's book instead?

Megan said...

Ouch.

bill said...

Joe - I think you'll find that the people with the most aggressive "law and order" attitude about this sort of thing are "creative types", whether they've been ripped off or not.

Since you're so creative, think about someone taking your work, passing it off as their own, and giving you no credit. Do you still think you'd just shrug it off?

bill said...

Also, Joe, I have to point out that your use of the word "creative" to defend your position is pretty amazing. That's some kick-ass irony.

bill said...

And, finally, I now realize that my last two posts were more sarcastic and combative than was necessary. I apologize.

sleeper said...

Joe -

You're gonna love this new song I've written. Technically I guess it's a Leonard Cohen song, but I changed the title from his girlfriend's name to my girlfriend's. I just realized, in reading his lyrics, that he described his girlfriend in exactly the same ways I would want to describe mine. And I tried changing the wording, but then I decided the way he had worded it was really the best possible way, so what would be the point in changing it? Same with the melody - I just sounded so exactly like what I would have wanted my song to sound like. I think this is the best song I've ever written. When I show my girlfriend this song I've written for her, I'm gonna totally deserve all the great sex that happens afterward.

Keep on "bending the rules of society," you fearless rebel, you. If it weren't for "creative types" like Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, etc., this world would be a dull place indeed.

Megan said...

Hey penman better take your phd over to the vancouver voice and make sure they are quoting you correctly. you may wish to give the guy your name and all that so you can get your .015 minutes.

bill said...

So because Penman's comments (and has he even posted more than once on this thread?) were quoted elsewhere, that makes him a bad person?

Seriously, what is wrong with some of you? Maybe, Megan, you're just angry because your own very loose ethical beliefs are being revealed.

Megan said...

Nope, not angry. Just a little sad. And oh yes, definitely ethically loose.

sleeper said...

megan,

Why jump on penman all of a sudden? He hasn't posted anything new since yesterday. And since he said he was going to stop visiting this site, I doubt he'll ever see your comment anyway.

Come to think of it, why the hell am I still hanging around here?

Megan said...

(sigh)

This morning, House Next Door has posted a link to an article written by some guy at the Vancouver Voice. Penman's post is quoted. I was trying to be funny by saying he should make sure he was quoted directly.

I guess I didn't go about it the right way, or something.

bill said...

Guess not.

Eddie said...

the fact of the matter is that no one needs to -- or should -- defend damian arlyn. mr. arlyn has already admitted that he committed plagiarism (intellectual theft). he has even gone so far to declare that his actions are inexcusable. those defending him are actually contradicting him.

Megan said...

I suppose so. But I'm not defending him. I admit he stole. It's just that in my ethically loose world, the punishment here is not fitting the crime. I'm putting the crime way down there with 'not petting the cat today' and others are putting it up there with 'stole from the mouths of babes.' I know that is an exaggeration but I gotta start getting ready for work and I haven't done any research for my fantasy football draft tomorrow so I gotta go. Everyone have a good weekend.

lucas mcnelly said...

Damian,

when i saw this yesterday at the House Next Door, I felt sick (full disclosure: i was kinda hung over, so that was part of it), as plagiarism is serious, serious stuff.

The Tarrantino example someone mentioned just goes to show how immature he is about such things, and I commend you for being a bigger man than he is an actually taking responsibility for your actions, instead of hiding behind that tired old adage that "great artists steal", because a great artist--a truly great one--steals something and makes it completely his own and indistinguishable (sp?) from the original. it's not simply the stealing that makes one great. any idiot can do that.

plagiarism is, to me, about as bad as it gets in the creative world (worse, even, than Wild Hogs) and maybe that's because I'm an artist and the thought of someone taking my hard work and then passing it off as their own is disgusting. it's the equivalent of raping someone, really, and after that there can be no trust. because you can never be sure.

so, i cannot join the chorus of people saying "that's ok. keep your chin up. you're better than this" and whatnot.

but you are better than this, Damian. and i think you know that.

still, i was a fan of your blog before this happened, and while i hate what you've done, i won't stop reading your work. i just won't be reading as enthusiastically as before.

i truly hope this has been a learning experience for you and that the apology and mea culpa is sincere, but only time can tell.

but whatever happens, don't let this affect your love of film.

Piper said...

Well said Lucas

Megan said...

Jeez and here I thought 'stealing from the mouths of babes' was going way overboard.

Lucas, I understand about hangovers. I have one myself right now.

But if you think that this situation is in any way equivalent to raping someone, you need to have your head examined.

lucas mcnelly said...

for the victim, sure.

but for the person on the other end, i'm not sure it isn't similar. at least, similar enough to work as a metaphor

Eddie said...

megan, would "intellectual rape" be a better term for you than an unmodified "rape"?

Megan said...

I suppose it's a female thing, or maybe it's just me (but I don't think so). Theft, ok. Piracy, yeah. Rape, no. Just way too violent.

bill said...

So, just to keep track: theft and piracy are the same as forgetting to pet your cat?

Jeff McMahon said...

(a) If someone is saying that Tarantino is actually guilty of wrongdoing and 'immature', I believe they don't understand his films, which are highly synthetic and complex. There are other filmmakers much more guilty of the mindless regurgitation it sounds like is being ascribed to him.

(b) So where's Jurassic Park?

Megan said...

No.

Go back to the post that I made at 5:52 pm yesterday.

bill said...

I did, and you're still essentially saying the same thing: lying and stealing the work of others is no big deal.

Eddie said...

jeff: why don't you just read dr. buckland's book instead?

Joe said...

I'm not familiar with the original works that some of the people posting here have authored in order to be kicking Damian's shins and rapping his knuckles for what he's already apologized for.

Introducing Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass into the debate is laughable. This was not a massive subterfuge designed to defraud millions. Even if "stealing is stealing" is the law you live your life by, I doubt very seriously a film version with Hayden Christensen playing Damian will be making its way to my video store anytime soon.

I think Tarantino has a serious PR disease and will always rub people the wrong way in his interviews, but as far as his work, I agree with Jeff. I would love someone who thinks Tarantino is immature or a hack to tell me who really wrote Reservoir Dogs or Kill Bill, if he didn't.

I'm still posting to this thread because I like this blog, was enjoying the 31 Days of Spielberg, and don't want to see the two or three extremists chase Damian away from writing.

bill said...

I'm perfectly fine with Damien continuing to write. I hope he learns his lesson and continues to blog.

At this stage, I'm really more appalled with the people who don't care than I am with him. He's at least acknowledging how wrong he was, and saying all the right things. Some of those defending him, however, seem to me to be the kind of people who would happily and guiltlessly plagiarize tomorrow if they thought they'd get away with it.

RAR said...

At this point, all I care about is the continuation of discussion about Spielberg. The moral platitudes have already gone flying and there's nothing much I can say that won't bring up issues already address about a dozen times over.

Lowering an argument of plagiarism to a rape metaphor is appalling. It's the lowest form of conversation baiting. The blog is simply product. A product for public distribution, either for sale or for free. It is not the physical violation of a human being. Personally, I’ve had intellectual property stolen from me. I’ve lost massive amounts of money over similar situations. I still don’t feel that bad about what has happened here because the appropriate guilt was correctly assigned, accurately addressed and admitted to in a prompt fashion. From that point on, the conversation has simply been a repetition of people trying to stake a claim of moral superiority on others.

Eddie, by the way, I have read the book and you know what? He has said more than just the book. And I've read say about 7 or so other biographies on him over the years along with other articles, documentaries and interviews. Damian's written about 60 pages of commentary in the last three weeks. Lets say that 60% of that has been information pared from multiple sources (direct and indirect over the years) take out another 10% is from reviews. Well that's still about 15-17 pages of new material. And that's not even the additional commentary he's made in discussion with people.

Like Bill, I’ll defend Damian’s right to continue. I hope he’s fortified himself for Jurassic Park and I hope the continued conversation is respectful.

Eddie said...

rar: should damian keep writing in general? yes. with regards to this spielberg project, though, i think that he should start all over again.

RAR said...

So what you're saying is rewrite the whole thing. Not just the early sections, but the entire project? I agree with you on the TV sections where problem material is, but as for the rest of the material, I find that unnecessary.

I figure you have a strong emotional reaction to what has occurred it will color anything else you read from. And that I don’t think anybody can change. For me, the following chapters were not somehow "corrupted" by his actions. The intent and execution of the following sections would absolutely be the same in general execution if simply rewritten. I would be more concerned that the following sections would lose any passion that they previously had. Like when one has to rewrite a letter that the computer deleted. It is never ever the same.

In taking that route, that is putting form over function. Where I may differ from others on the situation is how I view what a Blog is. The purpose in my eye is to promote discussion. If say he got paid for this or decided to publish what he has already written, my feelings would be different. But then it wouldn’t be a blog to me. That's why I don't take the situation as seriously as others (not to attack their understandably personal feelings on plagiarism). I’m not saying it is right, but it is all about relative scale of intention and effect.

What is the intent of this blog? To discuss Spielberg over his accumulated studies of the man's work. When Damian continues, I know he will be most likely cautious in his writing, almost to a fault, but eventually he will rebuild momentum back towards the previous flow of ideas, insights and observations. What is fascinating about film production is that momentum is the key to everything. You must keep going or else a project is dead. Bad judgment may come into play, but it is rectified and corrected in the process, almost as an inherent aspect of creating something. Again, I'm not calling making mistakes "right", I'm calling it inherent to the process of becoming a better writer, good or bad.

To restart the blog from scratch would kill any momentum the project had. It would be destroy my present interest in it so I am clearly opposed. That may be the only way to satisfy your sense of literary justice, but that for me is throwing out the baby, the bathwater and the sink they were in all at the same time.

Scott said...

Damian, I am one of those hugely disappointed by the weeks events and as a film journalist myself I can not justify what has occured, no matter how minor an infraction. The last few days I have followed the comment section which has not been unlike watching a car crash in slow motion.

However, I implore you to push on if not for the readers still willing to visit your blog, then surely for yourself. The only way to recover from such an event is to get yourself back up off the ground.

People will debate the rights and wrongs as long as they want and that is now a matter for them. You have made your apology and suffered huge public retribution (and rightly so). But now is surely the time to continue on with this project while you still have people coming back to read.

I know your confidence has probably taken a massive knock, but you have to have faith in yourself. Accept your licks, learn from it and become a better writer for it. It is up to you how you decide to allow this event to define you.

Best of luck

Jeremy said...

Hi Damian

How's it going. Just wanted to let you know I've been loving your "31 Days of Spielberg". I added you as a link to my blog now we can be blog buddies! And what's this I hear about the plagarism thing? Can't wait for "Schindler's List"

Eddie said...

rar: perhaps everything that damian writes after his plagiarism was discovered will not have any text pulled from other sources without proper attribution, but the evidence that was identified is from the early stages of the project. it's quite possible that the other pieces up to "hook" also have un-attributed pulls. does damian really want to risk being guilty of ADDITIONAL counts?

money doesn't matter. essays by students in junior high, senior high, and college are not published, either, but plagiarism is still not acceptable. the fact that this is a blog means that far more people have been reading damian's plagiarized text than the number of people that might read a student's school papers. there has been far more substantial damage--intellectual, moral, ethical, etc.--than just plain simple monetary value.

this project's "momentum" is not the issue. the VALIDITY of its existence is. if damian doesn't re-start anew, then he's going to find himself in serious trouble.

Jeff McMahon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff McMahon said...

Eddie, I find your 'why don't you read Buckland' posts massively condescending. If you don't like Mr. Arlyn's project anymore, I think you have sufficiently made your point and should feel free to move on instead of sitting like a troll on his message board and continuing to berate him.

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

Seriously Eddie, how many posts do you actually feel your need to make your point or don't you have anything better to do? I've read your opinion on here at least 8 or 9 times and while I agree with your argument I'm bored of hearing it (especially your same joke about reading Buckland's book over and over).

If you don't feel you've made you point by now you should really think about a new hobby, cos clearly you haven't got anything more incisive or new to add. Or, for that matter, anything better to do it would seem

So, er, why don't you just sod off and read something you don't feel simply vindictive about. It's just as unattractive a quality as plagiarism, and judged on this comments page, considerably more boring.

There's nothing gracious or heroic about kicking a guy when he's down regardless. If your not interested in the blog anymore go elsewhere. If you pissed off about Buckland's book, go start his fan club. Otherwise, just try and find some constructive to do. Perhaps it will help you find something to fill the chip in your shoulder.

Eddie said...

jeff and scott: you must realize that my comments are directed as much at damian's defenders as at damian. as i wrote, those who defend damian are actually contradicting him. don't you see the irony of it?

Scott said...

I completely understand that and agree with your logic. But you don't win an argument by merely repeating yourself over and over. If people choose not to listen it's up to them. I'd rather see the discussion move on to other things.

Scott said...

I figure seen as how I suggested that I should at least offer something up. Damian, do you plan to continue working on your blog? Is '31 Days of Spielberg' to be abandoned?

Eddie said...

scott: trust me, i don't like repeating myself. i repeat myself only because so many of these commentators have not acknowledged the gravity of the situation. it is appalling that so many remarks are along the lines of "keep going! we're rooting for you!" when it is entirely possible that additional plagiarized passages exist.

Arran said...

I just discovered this blog and wanted to congratulate the author on a phenomenal job. I have my own film website/blog Imaginary Cinema which I hope will eventually include a section on Spielberg's fantasy films, and I'm humbled by the amount of detail on this blog. I hope I can write something that insightful and comprehensive.
As for the claims of plagarism, it's all too easy to be inspired by another work and not be able to put the parts you agree with into your own words. You came clean and 31 days of Spielberg remains a great achievement. I can't wait for it to be completed.

Jeff McMahon said...

Eddie, nobody is disagreeing that wrong was done. As I said: Damian admitted what he did, he apologized. End of story. If you think other passages were plagiarized, start your research. Otherwise you're just taunting him.

Dennis said...

I was enjoying the series and really hope that Damian continues it. Furthermore, I don't care if some of you disagree with this.

So repeat yourselves ad infinitum about the "gravity" of the situation. I hope Damian continues.

Eddie said...

well, dennis, say i copied parts of damian's blog, posted them elsewhere, and claim that i wrote them. would that be acceptable behavior to you? would you enjoy my "writing" as much as you have enjoyed damian's since, after all, they are the exact same words?

Dennis said...

Well, Eddie, were you to copy from someone else, I'd be grateful that it would at least finally be a break from the same things you've been posting here over and over and over.

Go for it!

Piper said...

Seriously Eddie,

I got it. We all got it. Good Lord, I'm a grown man who understands communication. I got your point the first time and the twentieth. You're obviously upset by this so I say move on. I'm sure there's another soapbox you can get on elsewhere.

Jeff McMahon said...

The only thing worse than a troll is a troll who thinks their trolling is morally justified.

RAR said...

Considering it has been a week since we've heard from Damian here, there is the distinct possiblity he is going through the older blog entries and cross checking (should make Eddie happy). Maybe Damian is taking a needed break from it to get perspective. Or he's eating catfish. Who knows? But the lack of anything suggests something. Whatever it is, I hope all is well with him.

Unfortunately that type of silence has create a drama vacuum that we are quickly filling up by attacking Eddie. While the he and I don't play racketball like we used to, I don't think anyone should be hitting him hard. He has made his points and so have the rest of you guys. Baiting him on helps no one. For all we know he may be right about his point but again, we know nothing until we hear more from Damian.

More importantly, anyone been catching back up on Spielberg's films in anticipation? Just rewatched War of the Worlds and Munich (I'm a big fan of those two-to a point) along with later career films. I've been hearing a buzz through the grapevine about Indy 4. So let's hope.. let's always hope.

Megan said...

Last I heard Damian is recharging his batteries and shall return.

Rar that is funny you should mention the 'catch-up' thing because that is exactly what I have been doing.

I liked AI better this time...

Doc said...

So is this blog officially dead?

Damian said...

Not yet, Doc.

Not yet. :)

Jeffrey Allen Rydell said...

Pretty soon this will have to be considered "31 Days of No Spielberg"...

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