A Week of Assumptions
A couple of things hit me last week in a particularly strange way, two seemingly unrelated things, but they jelled into this post about three or four days in.
First, with all the stuff about Donald Jr. flying about early in the week, a friend of mine posted a link to the 1975 Eric Carmen song ‘All by Myself‘ with a caption along the lines of ‘guess this will apply to Donald Jr. soon…’ Good line regardless of political affiliation.
Right on top of this came the big news of the week – the photo of Amelia Earhart sitting on a dock on an island in the South Pacific watching a Japanese freighter tow her Lockheed Electra plane away. This won the Internet. A photo showing Amelia and her navigator, Fred Noonan, after their plane went missing. Mystery solved. Well, part of the mystery, what happened to them after the Japanese took their plane was not part of the story.
The photo was hailed as groundbreaking evidence nevertheless. The guy who found it, an ex-Treasury Agent combed through the National Archives for years for overlooked Earhart evidence and turned the up the photo in a box labeled ‘Declassified’. He released it as proof Amelia and Fred survived and were held in the Japanese occupied Marshall Islands. A face recognition expert verified that the guy standing was Fred. Those tidbits took the Net by storm.
So, pretty cool, right?
Here’s the thing(s) – there’s a story behind All by Myself. The hook is compelling, everyone who’s ever heard the song recognizes it immediately. So do classical music fans the world over, even those well beyond Eric Carmen’s reach. That’s because it is based on a Rachmaninoff piece . . . down to the note. See, Eric Carmen made a perfectly reasonable assumption – he thought classical music, composer out of the 19th Century, white haired, heavily bearded, formally dressed musician long dead, copyright long expired. Again, perfectly reasonable … and perfectly wrong.
Rachmaninoff was clean shaven, had short black hair, wore modern suits, and died in the 1930’s. The copyright was held by his family, they heard the song, they sued, they won millions.
Now, about the Earhart photo. Curious thing, there are no Japanese anywhere in the photo. As anyone who has ever seen a WWII war film knows, a port under Japanese occupation would be teeming with Japanese soldiers, sailors, bureaucrats. Not a one in the picture.
Apparently, the former Treasury agent who found it was so thrilled he didn’t look all that hard beyond the man, woman, and plane out on the barge. A Japanese military blogger, however, did. Right away. He visited the Japanese National Museum to check it out. It took him thirty minutes to find the photo there, it was from a Japanese travelogue coffee-table book published in 1935. Two years before Amelia and Fred took off on their trip around the world.
So, one week, two perfect examples of making assumptions and jumping to conclusions. The twin banes of Family Law.