The quarantine has me doing a bit of blogging lately, which means I’m also looking at my stats. With respect to my posts regarding copyright and RPGs:
The posts are broken into two separate issues. Part 1 and part 2 are about the copyrightability of RPG stat blocks, and part 3 (not relevant here) is about the OGL. As to the first issue, to date, part 1 represents ~30% of text by page count and has 17,037 hits (edit 10/20/2020: 17,667 hits), whereas part 2 (70%) has only 704 hits (edit 10/20/2020: 802 hits). Moreover, part 1 spends much of its text on going over basic copyright principles that don’t represent the actual argument. It’s clear by the stats and the basis of the criticism itself (often peppered with personal insults) that the vast majority of (non-lawyer) criticism I’ve received is from people that have read only 30% (at most) of that argument. I know it’s long, convoluted, and at times poorly written (mostly because it targets two very different audiences); and you’re under no obligation to read it (or even care about it). However, it’s all connected, and if you’re going to criticize it, you should probably understand it first.
Or not. Free speech and all that.
Part 3 has only 703 hits (edit 10/20/2020: 849 hits), which is surprising. I thought it would be the most read post.
Part 4 answers frequently ask questions and addresses frequently raised issues.
Over on a lawyers-only subreddit, the attorneys seemed to want to discuss only my side note on patentability of the Shadow of the Demon Lord initiative system. I guess it’s great that they all agree that my argument is trivially correct, but Rob Schwalb has seriously hijacked my glory. I let him have it when I saw him last February.
I have a phrase I like to use. By now, you should know it, but I’ll repeat it anyway: Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. There’s a meme running around . . . okay, going viral that completely misses this point. I’d like to trash the meme, but it goes all “sociopolitical,” and I’ve already done my annual sociopolitical post for the year. Instead, I’ll address another meme that reimagines the story told in Billy Joel’s fantastic song, Piano Man. The song is actually about Joel during his early days playing seedy bars filled with alcoholics and underachievers. The meme could be said to be sociopolitical too, but I don’t see it that way, so here it is.
Now, there’s a problem with the theory of this meme: Paul never had time for a wife. This means that if would have had a wife if his priorities are different. Also, not everyone who’s an alcoholic, failure, underachiever, or sailor is gay. That makes the statement at the end, “yep, it’s definitely a bar full of gay dudes,” to be rather arrogant, but that doesn’t mean that one can’t fairly infer that it’s at a “gay bar.” It still fits, and you just ignore the imperfections in the spirit of having fun with the lyrics.
Another Theory: They Still Live
Well then, it’s no less legitimate to instead imagine that Piano Man takes place in the They Live universe, but in a sequel called They Still Live in which a few surviving aliens have recovered their ability to hide their true selves. Joel is playing to bunch of extraterrestrials and doesn’t know it. Why can’t Billy tell they’re aliens?
Because those sunglasses are just ordinary ones. Instead of a bunch of homosexuals having a betting pool, it’s a bunch of aliens wondering when he’ll figure out that they’re aliens in hiding. They’re reluctant underachievers because they must remain in hiding until they reclaim control over the Earth. Is this a perfect inference? No, but remember, neither was the “gay bar” interpretation. This interpretation also has no clear contradictions within the lyrics, so it’s just as good. So would any interpretation in which people, extraterrestrial or otherwise, we’re in hiding. I’m sure the song could be put to use in a pretty good Al Qaeda recruitment video, and I doubt Joel would approve.
Revenge of the Sith
Let me give you another example. This one’s more on point with the meme I don’t want to discuss. In Revenge of the Sith, Mace Windu, et al. attack Emperor Palpatine, a.k.a., Darth Sidious. The others fall, so it’s just Mace and Sidious going at it, and Mace gets the upper hand. He starts to reflect Sidious’s force lighting back on him. According to the dialogue, as wells as a (long-lost) interview with George Lucas, the reflection disfigured Palpatine.
I never bought that, and I think Kessel Junkie and I have discussed it.
My interpretation from the moment I saw it was that Sidious was already disfigured from his long term use of the Dark Side. Within the movies – I don’t concern myself at all with the Expanded Universe – there’s nothing in canon to contradict that. With Mace Windu’s attack, Sidious’s power was being tasked, so his veil dropped. Everyone was seeing him for what he really was. He initially lied to Anakin to complete his turn to the Dark Side, then maintained the lie to convince others of the treachery of the Jedi. That in turn meant that he no longer had to use a portion of his power to maintain that veil. Win-win as far as he was concerned.
Am I wrong? Not according to me, so why do I care whether George agrees? Why would he care if I disagree with him?
The point is that you can interpret art, especially good art, in a way that suits you, even if it contradicts the intent of the creator. Unless you’re way off base, your interpretation is as legitimate an interpretation as anyone else’s. Whatever makes the art work for you is fine.
As long as you’re buying it, the creators won’t mind.
Ah, the Internet. So stupid at times, but also so wonderful. I recently put out a call for help based on a vague memory.
I don’t like comics, but I hate losing knowledge even more, so I really wanted to hunt down this reference. My TV doppelganger, Danny, came through.
Once I saw this cover, the memories started pouring back in. There are still some holes, so I’d love to re-read the comic, but … hey, is that … GROOT?! The “tree monster” is one of the characters I had forgotten, so this was quite a jolt. I love the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and was wondering whether that was the Groot or just another member of his species.
For what it’s worth, Wikipeida confirms this, though all but the mastermind among Hulk’s enemies were actually copies of other creatures.
I love how these two tied together. One of the few comics I’ve ever read introduced me to a character that 38 years later would be part of a movie that I love, all within the context of a medium that I don’t particularly like. What are the odds?
Some of you may have noticed my recent uptick in the use of profanity in my posts. Well, maybe one or two of you. In any case, there’s a reason for that. I tend to use this blog for silly things, avoiding politics, religion, and other incendiary topics at all costs. This post is a bit serious though. As most of you know, I’m an attorney, and I take the right to free speech very seriously. That’s what this post is about.
Last Friday, I posted the following meme on Facebook.
Almost everyone responded with, “Fuck you,” or the cleverest variation they could muster. It was wonderful. However, as you all know, there’s always one person that spoils the party. Here’s our exchange.
Why the focus on weakness? Because it’s bad for society. It’s not just profanity that scares people. Some people are afraid of applause and jokes on topics they believe should be taboo. Phonophobia is a real thing, but as someone who was diagnosed phobic during college (different phobia), I have first-hand experience distinguishing between fear and a phobia (c.f., depression v. sadness). There aren’t nearly as many phobics out there as your Facebook posts suggest. Some of these fears are merely the result to choose the easy way out and be weak. That doesn’t require professional help to correct; it needs a kick in the ass.
In other words, we all have insecurities and weaknesses, yet the world should be allowed to keep spinning anyway.
Unfortunately, the lowest common denominator of our society (in terms of weakness) is now dictating the terms thanks to their allies that blindly defend them with no appreciation for how it will weaken our culture. The allies claim that our job as the strong is to protect the weak, but that’s an incomplete statement. Of course we shouldn’t be picking on the weak, but we should be encouraging the weak to become stronger, or at least to learn to coexist in a society with the strong and everyone in between those extremes. Coddling (and downright encouraging) them isn’t good for us and isn’t good for them. Other cultures aren’t so weak, and they’ve already started to overtake us in specific ways.
Before I make my next point, I want to note that I hate the passive aggressive nonsense of, “If you don’t agree with my position on [political issue], then please unfollow me now.” Fuck that. Those people are assholes. If I don’t want someone to follow me, I should get up off my lazy ass and block them. The following isn’t meant to say otherwise.
If you don’t like what I’m saying, you have options. You can unfollow the thread, unfollow my blog or other social media platform, unfriend me, or block me. Ultimately, I don’t care if you don’t like the content of my thread regardless of the reason. If you do any of those things because of profanity (and I detect it), I’ll probably think to myself, “Well, that’s sad of them,” but it’ll be a fleeting thought quickly forgotten and never mentioned again. More directly, there’ll be no hard feelings on my end. I actually don’t want anyone to go, because everyone has something to offer in a conversation, but if you can’t handle naughty words, that’s your burden.
Or at least it should be.
So, your personal choice isn’t what concerns me. What concerns me is when you demand I facilitate such weakness, thus attempting to force your choices on me. Whether you complain to Facebook or another private entity (who often bow to the pressure of small minorities of misguided extremists), or even worse to the government, then you’re infringing on my life and possibly my rights. That’s where the line should be drawn, both legally and socially.
The Consequences of Censorship: The New Town Square
In the old days, if you wanted to bitch about an issue, you’d go to town square, prop yourself up on a soapbox, and start talking. Because town square was public land, the government couldn’t easily suppress the speech, and we had a free flow of opposing ideas allowing us to hammer out the details of our own positions. Now, other than major events, the public uses social media as town square. That is, we do the same thing on Facebook. Facebook’s control over their platform is, for all practical purposes, control over our speech, and is almost as dangerous as giving the government such control. Moreover, the government will always find a back door to indirectly influence private companies to restrict speech the government doesn’t want to hear, so it could become the same thing.
Suppressing any speech eventually suppresses all speech. That’s unacceptable because without free speech, none of our other rights have any teeth. This isn’t to say that I want private companies to be forced into certain speech. They have speech rights too, which includes the right not to speak. They also have rights to run their business, but only if it doesn’t harm society. There’s a delicate balance to be struck here, and ultimately the only pushback we can place on private companies is through antitrust law. That’s a completely different discussion that will definitely not be had on this blog. The point, however, is that this is extremely important.
So is shit, fuck, cock, and pussy really so much to ask for?
I have an android phone, and the native music application went the way of the dinosaur at the end of the year in favor of YouTube Music. Some of the announcements had me worried about privacy, so I was reluctant to make the switch. Instead, I installed an ad-infused third-party music application. Eventually, I decided that I might as well give it a try, so I upgraded.
YouTube Music is great.
I pay for the premium, so maybe that has something to do with it, but when I search for a song and play it, the application creates a playlist of 49 additional songs that are related by artist or genre. As I move from one song to the other, a new song is appended to the list. I suspect, but can’t prove, that the appended song takes into account the songs I skip, because as I get beyond the original list, there’s less of an incentive to skip songs. As a result, every day I hear good to great songs I never knew existed, even for artists I thought I knew well. Sure, there are some stinkers in there, but I’m discovering a lot of hidden gems. I’m also rediscovering music I’ve previously forgotten. Who can’t get behind seemingly unlimited, new music, all legal to download?
I’m still concerned about a potential bait-and-switch on their policies, which may relate to privacy.