Just for fun Life in general

Big Changes; Swift Action

Lots going on in my life these days; most folks who know me know this, but my last day at Smith Engineering was February 9, 2024. This also represents a step away from higher education marketing career-wise; big news coming, but not until March.

“Coming down” from a job you’ve put a lot of your brain and identity into for years is a process. I was fortunate to be asked by friends of friends to house-sit / dog-sit for this very good, very silly boy for a week:

…which gave me a week of decompressing, partly getting ready for the Next Thing, lots of dog-walking, etc.

I’ve never really listened to Taylor Swift, but both of my nieces are bananas for her. Big Swifties. And there’s nothing wrong with that! I just run my own music server / support, so my listening doesn’t generally include stuff I don’t intend it to. And while I’m trying to be less snobbish than I used to be, the culture around Swift wasn’t one where I felt compelled to seek it out and listen to her music.

But — time on my hands, and looking to reset my brain in some significant ways — I challenged my nieces that if they would make me playlists of up to 15 songs, I would give them an earnest listen.

And they did (their mom said it was “the hardest she’d ever seen them work on something like homework”). So I did!

I’m a big fan of my reMarkable, so I used it to write while I gave these songs a Whole Listen. I have no idea why anyone would be interested in these, but my wife suggested I post them for posterity, so if you’re looking for a 50-year-old man’s perspective on lists of Taylor Swift songs compiled by two teens, here y’go:

I can’t say I’d be lining up for tickets (especially at these prices), but I have to say I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. And that it’s a lot more maudlin than I expected! I was thinking it was all pop bangers — “Look What You Made Me Do” is the only Taylor Swift song I can summon to memory — but there’s a whole subcategory of Swift songs I now call the “piano sads”.

Really impressed with the songwriting, the lyrics. Would be more enthused if she seemed to have any way of positioning herself and her life other than the present state of whatever relationship she’s in (but maybe, again, this is just a reflection of where my nieces are at in their song choices).

I’ve also been thinking a bit about why I’ve been so out of the Swift orbit; the fair question for myself, I think, is to ask why I’ve been quasi-avoiding this very popular, very successful female singer/songwriter, and would I duck out on male pop stars the same way?

And… having given it some thought, I feel okay. I can think of a number of Very Big acts that I’ve also never really made time for, across a number of spectrums, so I don’t think there’s anything there. But it’s good to ask yourself periodically where the “I’m not interested in what this person has to say” instinct comes from. In this case I think it’s just the form, and if I’m honest a bit of New Country stink in the background, that drove the disinterest.

On the whole, a really worthwhile exercise. I feel like I have a better understanding of a big piece of the zeitgeist right now.

Copyright Just for fun Law Photography

Graffiti and Copyright

In the category of “interesting things I’ve never thought much about,” Gerald Kerr-Wilson and Kiera Boyd (Fasken) popped up in a Google alert I have set up recently with a short piece on whether graffiti is protected by copyright. It’s short and cogent.

On search to fill in some holes, I’ve discovered this is kind of a little cottage industry for law firm blogs shoring up their SEO; a quick search shows at least a dozen very similar articles treading much the same ground:

  • the Copyright Act doesn’t require that work be lawful to have copyright protection;
  • issues may arise if graffiti is reproduced, including in the background of other works, and that partial destruction of graffiti may infringe the author’s moral rights.

Challenges when using graffiti are partially answered in the first case by incidental use (s30.7 of the Act) and whether the graffiti could be considered permanent “artistic craftsmanship” (s 32.2(1)(b)). In the second case, it’s possible (no case has ever come up) that protection may exist but in a limited form, like for obscene materials (Aldrich v One Stop Video Ltd, [1987] BCJ No 1035).

Fair dealing isn’t much of a defense; it’s highly contextually specific, but it would be rare(ish) for something to be covering graffiti in an academic/analysis context that gets to the point where it’s worth pursuing a claim. Plus, attribution is part of the consideration — impossible with most graffiti, which I get into below.

They don’t address two questions I think are really compelling, though.

First, that to claim authorship you’d have to in many cases confess to a crime; in Canada, this would be “mischief”, per s 430(1) of the Criminal Code:


430 (1) Every one commits mischief who wilfully

(a) destroys or damages property;

(b) renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective;

(c) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or

(d) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.

Criminal Code, s430(1)

Generally, assuming that most graffiti results in <$5K of damage, this would make you liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or punishable on summary conviction (s 430(4)).

There’s a six-month limitation to most cases of mischief (s 786(2) of the Code), so depending on how rapacious you are as a tagger* and how far in the past you bombed*, your comfort level in coming forward may vary.

Second question: how do you prove you’re the author of graffiti? Clearly, you’re not going to register it. I can only imagine that in many cases, the artist has taken steps _not_ to be identified. On a cursory search, I can’t find much in terms of court cases that have hinged on authors proving authorship over pseudonymous work. The one thing — a 2014 story about Alexandre Veilleux, a Montreal graffiti artist who sued Radio-Canada (French-language CBC) for $45,000 for using buildings tagged with his graffiti under the name “Alex Scaner” in a TV show called 30 Vies. Article here (in French). Nothing seems to have reached to the point that it’s captured in CanLII, so either it was dropped or settled pre-court.1Also, Quebec is a civil law jurisdiction, so YMMV in the rest of Canada.

Via Teresa Scassa’s blog, a 2013 account of an Orillia-area art gallery that pulled an exhibit of photos of graffiti taken in Barcelona; in the Scassa blog, there’s also mention of a 2008 incident with a Toronto gallery taking down a graffiti photo exhibit. 2An aside: bitrot has eaten some of the above articles, and I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the good people at and the Wayback Machine for archiving things like this. If you have a few bucks this holiday season, consider supporting them.

It’s also worth noting the the latter article includes a photo of somebody in the gallery, looking at the photos that reproduce the graffiti — I’d assume that “Patanne“, the photographer there as credited in this other article, is now also subject to the same complaints as Karp, the Moore Gallery artist. It’s turtles all the way down.

Banksy, the world’s most famous graffiti artist, has failed to assert copyright over his work in the past – in part because he wanted to preserve his pseudoanonymity.

Fun woolgathering, but without much to hang a hat on. A little woolgathering on a Sunday morning is never a bad thing, though.

*Am I qualified to use graffiti lingo? Well, I did subscribe to Juxtapoz magazine for, like, two years in the mid-aughts, so I have exactly $72 worth of cred.


  • Various Artists, “The Faithful: A Tribute to Marianne Faithfull”
  • Sick Boss, “Businessless”
  • Various Artists/Tycho, “Back to Mine: Tycho”
  • 1
    Also, Quebec is a civil law jurisdiction, so YMMV in the rest of Canada.
  • 2
    An aside: bitrot has eaten some of the above articles, and I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the good people at and the Wayback Machine for archiving things like this. If you have a few bucks this holiday season, consider supporting them.
Just for fun Kingston, Ontario Life in general Private

Darby Huk – Cryptids with Vices

My wife and I try to attend the Union Gallery’s annual fundraiser every year. It’s called Cézanne’s Closet; the format is you pay $100 for a ticket, and about 100 artists donate work to the gallery. You browse before the event, and then ticket numbers get called at random. If your number comes up, you pick a piece of art to keep!

It’s a ton of fun, especially as a couple — there’s always an interesting evaluation-and-negotiation phase to hit on pieces we both love.

This year, though, our #1 was identical when we compared notes: Wrong Turn at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, by artist Darby Huk.

Wrong Turn at Point Pleasant, West VA, by Darby Huk

We were chuffed! Darby’s a Master’s student at Queen’s University, and we could hear her on the Zoom call for the gallery event, so I knew she was in town.

Unbeknownst to Marisa, I reached out to her after the event and asked if she’d be interested in a commission of two more paintings to make it a trio of sorts (I don’t think this is technically a triptych, but I’m calling it that anyway), keeping with the “cryptids and vices” theme. Fortunately, she was into it! So we bought two more paintings from her…

¡Cumpleaños! Puerto Rico


Girls Night, Douglas, Wyoming

Together, they look like this…

Again, we’re super stoked! Now we just have to figure out where we can clear some wall space…

Just for fun Theory

The hedgehog, the fox, and the honeybee

Something short this week. This has rattled around in my head for about five years, and I’m finally writing it down.

Prior to starting at the law faculty, I had very limited exposure to academia. I was in for-profit marketing / advertising, where there were a lot of terrifically brainy people, but we all tended to be the same kind of brainy: fast-thinking, creative, aggressively innovative, think-around-the-problem types. Succeeding in advertising requires a lot of different things, but optimally rapacious curiosity and the ability to take vast amounts of information on board in a hurry. If you don’t understand the client and the client’s business to a fair degree of acumen pretty fast, you’re not going to be able to help them.

Academia was definitely not the first time I’d met another kind of brainy: dogged, deep, and intense thinkers in one very finite area, but not necessarily interested in or curious about others. I started thinking more about types of brainy, and landed here. It turns out there are lots of ways to think about this, and probably some folks have got this down to a different and better degree than I do, but on a cursory Internet search, it doesn’t look like there’s a definitive take on this. So here’s mine:

Intelligent is deep, but not wide. “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing,” as Isaiah Berlin said, then later regretted saying because people kind of ran away with it. I’m one of those people, because he was originally writing about lenses for political philosophy and here I am further bastardizing it with this small bit of nonsense. Intelligence is the hedgehog trait. An intelligent person who is very interested in the history of woodworking can tell you when the first lathe was created or the average width in microns of a sharpened chisel… or not, if they’re interested in going really deep in a woodworking subset, in which case they might be absolute geniuses at wood grain but know nothing about how a table saw works.

Smart is wide, but not necessarily deep. Smart is the fox trait. Smart people know a lot of stuff, and have a crazy huge sampler tray of knowledge to draw from. A smart person could know that the reason your microwave isn’t turning on is that the turntable is broken, but also the evolutionary path of the platypus and where we’re at as a species on the path to colonizing Mars. Smart people do well at trivia night.

Clever is wiggly, and belongs to neither foxes or hedgehogs, but aligns itself more with foxes. Let’s call it the honeybee trait: honeybees, like many foraging species, use chaotic patterns to optimize food searches. They’re seemingly all over the place, but in a way that ultimately serves a goal. A clever persion might look at your broken microwave and use their knowledge of a systems planning process for a Mars mission to devise a way to figure out what is wrong with the microwave, and apply their understanding of the history of the lathe to tinker with the broken turntable inside it.

Nobody is only ever one thing. Intelligence, smarts and cleverness exist in everyone, in unique mixes. In my experience, they also wax and wane with time. I would say I am more clever than smart or intelligent, at the end of the day, but can find myself sliding into long periods of intense interest in a single subject, and crowd out most of my brain with a single point of focus. Similarly, I can get sick of something and spend weeks dabbling in various ideas, and dip into a dozen different areas of knowledge.

Clever seems to be the most baked-in trait: you’re either curious and prone to lateral thinking, or focused and not given to crossing mental wires. There’s no good or bad to it; lateral thinking can lead to disasters as well as successes (“I bet I can fix this fusebox with that piece of chewing gum” is lateral thinking, but also dumb as hell).

That’s it. No grand thesis of life, just some categorization that’s been rattling around in my head for half a decade, waiting to get written out. Intelligent, smart, clever: the hedgehog, the fox, and the honeybee.