Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Attending Harvard means never having to say you're sorry

I don’t know if anyone else has been following the Harvard plagiarism case lately.  But this story strikes me as way more important than whether James Frey actually lived the events recounted in his memoir.  At least they were all his own words.  

The case seems bound for court and while little-miss-perfect at Harvard wants to insist that the copying was “unintentional,” looking at the passages it seems pretty likely that she will get taken to the cleaners.

What’s truly sad is that Ms. Viswanathanin butchered most of the passages that she copied with unnecessary adjectives and added prepositional phrases.  Here are a few from the Boston Globe:
Best Friend
Bridget is my age and lives across the street. For the first twelve years of my life, these qualifications were all I needed in a best friend. But that was before Bridget's braces came off and her boyfriend, Burke, got on, and before Hope and I met in our seventh-grade honors class.
''Sloppy Firsts," page. 7

Priscilla was my age and lived two blocks away. For the first fifteen years of my life, those were the only qualifications I needed in a best friend. We had first bonded over our mutual fascination with the abacus in a playgroup for gifted kids. But that was before freshman year, when Priscilla's glasses came off, and the first in a long string of boyfriends got on.
''Opal Mehta," page 14

The Bad Boy
The other thing about Marcus is that crackheaded girls who don't know any better think he's sexy. I don't see it. He's got dusty reddish dreads that a girl could never run her hands through. His eyes are always half-shut. His lips are usually curled into a semi-smile, like he's in on a big joke that's being played on you but you don't know it yet.
''Sloppy Firsts," page 23

Just about every girl, from the A list HBz to the stoner hoochies, thought he was sexy. The weird thing was, I didn't see it. He had too-long shaggy brown hair that fell into his eyes, which were always half-shut. His mouth was always curled into a half smile, like he knew about some big joke that was about to be played on you.
''Opal Mehta," page 48

Personal Space
Marcus then leaned across me to open the passenger-side door. He was invading my personal space, as I had learned in Psych class, and I instinctively sank back into the seat. That just made him move in closer. I was practically one with the leather at this point, and unless I hopped into the backseat, there was nowhere else for me to go.
''Sloppy Firsts," page 213

Sean stood up and stepped toward me, ostensibly to show me the book. He was definitely invading my personal space, as I had learned in a Human Evolution class last summer, and I instinctively backed up till my legs hit the chair I had been sitting in. That just made him move in closer, until the grommets in the leather embossed the backs of my knees, and he finally tilted the book toward me.
''Opal Mehta," page 175

Finally, four major department stores and 170 specialty shops later, we were done.
''Sloppy Firsts," page 237

Five department stores, and 170 specialty shops later, I was sick of listening to her hum along to Alicia Keyes, and worn out from resisting her efforts to buy me a pink tube top emblazoned with a glittery Playboy bunny.
''Opal Mehta," page 51    

Maybe she should try the Roger Myers Jr. plagiarism defense?

Myers: Okay, maybe my dad did steal Itchy, but so what? Animation is built on plagiarism!  If it weren't for someone plagiarizing the Honeymooners, we wouldn't have the Flintstones. If someone hadn't ripped off Sgt. Bilko, they'd be no Top Cat. Huckleberry Hound, Chief Wiggum, Yogi Bear? Hah! Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney.  Your honor, you take away our right to steal ideas, where are they gonna come from? Her?  [points at Marge]
Marge: Uh... Hmm... How about... Ghostmutt?
-- I see your point


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