Pinned Post: Looking at My Stats and Revisiting My #RPG #Copyright Posts

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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, whereas part 2 (70%) has only 704 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.

Endnotes:

  • Part 3 has only 703 hits, which is surprising. I thought it would be the most-read post.
  • Part 3.5 provides necessary clarification and correction to part 3.
  • Part 4 answers frequently asked questions and addresses frequently raised issues.
  • Over on a lawyers-only subreddit, all the attorneys seemed to want to discuss is my side note on the 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. No worries, though. I gave him hell when I saw him in February.

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Good Watch: Doctor Sleep #movie #horror#GoodWatch #QuarantineLife @DoctorSleepFilm @HBOMax

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I do not like most horror movies. Doctor Sleep was the kind of horror movie I like. There were no obviously stupid moves made by the characters, which means two things: 1) the writing was uncharacteristically tight; and 2) I wound up rooting for the good guys. When people do stupid things in movies, I always think to myself, “Well, I’m glad you’re going to die, dumb ass.” The movie serves as a sequel to 1980’s the Shining. In that story, a father, mother, and son were staying in a remote Colorado hotel during the off-season. Spirits were awakened and possessed the father, who tried to kill them both. Snowed in from the customary weather, the mother and son were left with few options, so they had to fight back. Doctor Sleep is the story of SPOILER ALERT the son, who survived along with his mother, and now faces a completely different threat. While he could continue to keep himself hidden, he connects with another like him — a young girl — and feels compelled to help her as someone once helped him (and still does).

As a sequel to the Shining, it also tugged on the nostalgia heartstrings quite a bit, which may mean nothing to you. I saw the Shining in the theater when I was 12 years old. That was a fantastic movie, and Doctor Sleep did a great job of lining up with the Shining while still carving out its own path. For what it’s worth, its scores on Rotton Tomatoes are 77% from the critics (who don’t matter to me; well, usually), and 89% from the audience. These aren’t as good as the 85%/93% the Shining received, but close enough for you to consider it.

Doctor Sleep is currently streaming on HBO. As always, YMMV.

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Good Watch: Horns #movie #GoodWatch #QuarantineLife @SabrinaAnnLynn @imheathergraham @Netflix

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Horns is a movie from 2013, and I’m shocked that I had never even heard of it before Netflix notified me that it was on their service. I was missing out.

Daniel Radcliffe plays a boy wizard … no, that’s not right. He plays a boyfriends suspected of having murdered his religious girlfriend. The entire town and the news media (always blame the media!) assume he’s guilty. As the emotional walls come closing in, he wakes up in the morning with a pair of horns sticking out of his head. (Side note: It’s clear that we’re supposed to assume they’re devil’s horns, but as a sporadic D&D player, I saw them as satyr horns.) Once he has horns, most (not all) people in close proximity begin to confess their inner immorality and negative feelings, often acting them out. On the other hand, some people can’t even see the horns. In some ways, this made it easier to unravel the mystery, but in some ways it made it harder.

The ending is a bit heavy-handed, but a scene leading up to that ending is heart-wrenching. I don’t handle death in movies particularly well, but that actually draws me to those movies because, as strange as this sounds, I’m not afraid of my fears. The reason why is something I’d never share publicly and have only once shared privately (I’ll be damned if that wasn’t a huge mistake), though I suspect someone who grew up with me understands it. The point is that there’s really no reason to believe anyone would enjoy the movie as much as I, and that appears to be the case.

This is one of those movies where I get hooked from the beginning, wanting to know how it’s going to unfold. As always, YMMV.

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Comic Book Movies: Same IP; Different Media #movie #MCU #DCEU

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I ran into this meme on Facebook, and it triggered a long-held thought that I suspect is still relevant today.

Constantine
Constantine (if you know the source of this meme, please let me know so I can give proper credit)

This refers to the movie Constantine, which I love. Its Rotten Tomatoes scores are typical of the divide between film credits and the audience. The last panel in the meme is what grabbed me. It references the fact that comics and movies are different media, and so they should play out differently. That appears to be something many (not necessarily most) comic book fans can’t grasp. Even when they accept, for example, the death of Thanos, they immediately start spreading theories as to how he could return in future movies. That attitude is still prevalent, and as much as I loved Thanos, I don’t get why.

This issue goes back a long way for me. I remember my cousin, and avid comic book collector, not liking that the Joker died in Michael Keaton’s first Batman movie (1989). In part, he saw it as a waste of a character that could be put to good use later. (His views may have changed, but others still make this argument.) The thing is, the Joker is not a character that they should have used again, precisely because it’s a movie.

It’s necessary for villains to survive in the comics. There are only so many ideas for villains, and with comic story lines having to last decades, killing off villains would create a shortage of adversaries for your stories. The only way to fix that would be to have another person take up that villain’s mantle. Sometimes that works, but doing that too often would leave the reader with the notion that they’re effectively dealing with the same character, so the writers are (cheaply) trying to have it both ways. Hence, you instead put them in prison or Arkham Asylum, they escape, and then you start the cycle again.

Movies are different. Most audience members require definitive closure, with death providing the most dramatic end to a story. Because the MCU‘s “blistering” pace still produces only three movies per year, there are actually far too many interesting villains that will go unused if you’re going to reuse the ones you’ve already shown. By the time you genuinely need to reuse a villain (if ever), you’re probably rebooting the cinematic universe for a different generation of viewers anyway. Ergo, for movies, you can have the closure your audience craves without painting yourself into a corner. If that pisses off a small percentage of your core fans that are still going to watch your movies anyway, you have an acceptable outcome.

Go ahead. Kill the Joker.

EDIT: See my comment below.

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Favorite Watch: The Finale of Aqua Teen Hunger Force @DanaSnyder @DaveWillis2 @hbomax #ATHF #GoodWatch #QuarantineLife

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I finished re-watching the entire series, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, on Monday. This is one of my favorite shows, but I saw only a couple of episodes of the last three seasons. In 2015, Adult Swim president Mike Lazzo made the decision to end ATHF, stating he “was ready to move on from it.” I completely understand why. They were weak seasons. I didn’t like the final final ending, but that’s no surprise. It’s hard for me not to laugh at the characters; with 11- to 12-minute episodes, story could never be the focus of the show. Nevertheless, I found myself watching it for the sake of watching it.

There’s no way those last couple of seasons could spoil one of my favorite shows, but the show had clearly run its course.

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Ability Is Great, but Confidence Is Key #DCEU #MCU

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It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
— Mark Twain

Yesterday, I wrote about my re-watch of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. As soon as I finished, I re-watched Justice League because of course I did. My favorite scene from Justice League was the fight between Superman and the others, and within that scene, I loved where the Flash entered the speed force (his element), Superman was ready for it, Superman cast off the other members with ease, and then beat up the Flash before the other three even hit the ground. Once and for all, it established Superman as a badass. A badass with the exploitable weakness of his concern for others, but nevertheless a badass.

What struck me about that scene within the scene is that Superman won on Flash’s home turf. He shouldn’t have, but yet he did. Superman won because he was confident, and the Flash was an insecure kid who had never been in a fight before he teamed up with Batman, et al. (which didn’t go so well for him). This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a superhero movie address this theme.

Also, within Justice League, Victor Stone had to take control back from the machine that infected him, and he couldn’t do that while it still intimidated him. There are quite a few examples. On the flip side, Arthur Curry was far too arrogant when he agreed to face his half-brother, King Orm, in the Combat of the Kings (Aquaman). Arrogance can be just as damaging as meekness. You need to strike a balance between the two to realize your full potential, but the point is that attitude certainly matters and always will.

I hope Flash won the race from the mid-credit scene, but he probably spent too much time looking at Superman to see who was currently winning, which always slows you down. Meekness. 😦

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Long Movie: Batman v. Superman Ultimate Edition #movie #Superman #Batman #DCEU

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I liked Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but because it currently has a 62% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I can’t say it’s a Guilty Pleasure. I do hear a lot of hate from my social media connections, though, and many of them have told me that they actually liked the Ultimate Edition because of the additional information it provides. (One suggested that the same thing could be said about the Watchman Extended Cut.) I agree that the additional scenes improve BvS, but that raised a question for me: Why not keep them in the cinematic release?

The Ultimate Edition is 3 hours and 3 minutes long (including credits). I’ve seen 3-hour movies in the theater, so if the scenes are already filmed and modified in post production (i.e., paid for), why waste them? Give people their money’s worth, improve the movie, and your reviews will be better. I can think of three responses to my question.

Response 1: You want some deleted scenes to make the home release more enticing.
Counterpoint: If people don’t like your movie, nothing will entice them to buy your home releases.

Response 2: I’m operating from hindsight. There was no way to know that the deleted scenes would have improved the movie.
Counterpoint: Does anyone really think that the test audiences didn’t like the deleted scenes? They made the movie much better. Aren’t filmmakers professionals? Why can’t they figure out how to use test audiences to get the right result, especially for movies with such huge budgets?

Response 3: Three hour (or more) movies are too long.
Counterpoint: Bring back the intermission so that people with short attention spans and weak bladders can handle it. Oh, snap!

Who’s got a response #4? I’ll defeat that one too.

I can’t believe they cut Jon Stewart. At this point, I suspect that cutting scenes is simply a strange sort of tradition among filmmakers. 

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No Small Parts: Captain Robau from Star Trek 2009 @chrishemsworth #StarTrek #FaranTahir #movie

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Great Shatner’s ghost! I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted about Star Trek. It’s my favorite entertainment property, yet I’ve been so focused on the superhero stuff and random Netflix movies that I haven’t watched any Star Trek recently. Ironically, it was the Iron Man quarantine watch party on June 30, that inspired this post (as well as this one and this one).

I haven’t seen a lot of Faran Tahir, but I’ve been impressed by everything in which I’ve seen him, including his role in Iron Man. That role wasn’t small, but this post is about Captain Robau from the 2009 reboot of Star Trek. George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) gets the credit for his sacrifice, and that’s fair, but it’s clear that he was following the teachings of his captain, played by Mr. Tahir. Captain Robau set the tone for the scene, and the entire movie, by remaining completely calm during the brief negotiations and immediately complying with Nero’s demands despite the danger. He didn’t do this because he was without fear – his bio signs indicated an elevated heart rate, rapid breathing, and other signs of emotional distress – but because leaders don’t have the luxury of personal considerations. If you take responsibility for other people’s lives, you need to live up to that.

Captain Robau was a strong character, and his leadership set the tone for a movie that was as much about leadership as it was about friendship.

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Pepper Potts Sucks! @ComicBook @BrandonDavisBD @Rowaenthe @RobertDowneyJr #IronMan #QuarantineWatchParty #MCU

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June 30 was the first ComicBook.com quarantine watch party in quite some time. As always, I made a few more Twitter connections through the conversations that came from it. These conversations inspired three posts for my blog. This is the second one that in some sense serves as a sequel to the first one.

I must admit that I’m a little out of my element. As I said in the prior Iron Man-related post, I don’t analyze these movies from the perspective of an expert in screenwriting. I focus on themes that are important to me. This post eventually strays into an analysis of moviemaking and human relationships, so I have far more questions than I have answers, and my affirmative claims are often mere speculation. My primary question is: What purpose to the larger story did Pepper’s naivete and/or stubbornness serve?

Here’s what I’m talking about:

In other words, there are several incidents throughout the MCU where Pepper makes the same mistake that many people make in the real world. She tries to interfere with a strong person doing what’s necessary because she doesn’t understand what strength of character is, or at least why it’s important. As shown in Shazam!, attitude is often far more important than actual ability, which is why even in the non-caveman, modern world, strength is an important feature. While Pepper is a hard worker, intelligent, and portrayed as strong in other ways, that’s not a realistic portrayal. She’s simply serving a plot, so the script has her acting both strong and weak at different points.

While we all have our strengths and weaknesses, this paradox is far more profound than that. She doesn’t get a simple reality that, again, I’ve seen a lot in the real world: Telling Tony not to act because it places him at risk is counterproductive. If he doesn’t act, the bad guys will win, and Tony will die anyway (along with many other people). This is absolutely maddening, and it happens during Paltrow’s entire tenure in the MCU. At the end of Iron Man 3, Tony temporarily gives up being Iron Man for her. Fortunately, real world economics prevail, and the screenwriters quickly send Tony back into the fray to save half the universe. But the point is that, if you’re weak, that’s fine, but don’t stand in the way of the strong. They have a job to do, and it’s generally saving your ass.

How Did the Relationship Work?

Sorry, but my writing gets a little choppy here because I’m suddenly shifting gears.

I’m light years from my area of expertise, but perhaps Stark latched onto a person with such a silly outlook because her motivation was seemingly unconditional love, and that’s what he was searching for. According to Captain America: Civil War, he lost that relationship for a while, but as soon as he could, he grabbed her and didn’t let go. As I speculated in the prior Iron Man-related post, that’s probably because Tony’s lack of a family was haunting him (as it often haunts me). Or maybe it’s far simpler: Opposites attract. Because it’s just a movie, they were able to write the script anyway they wanted, so the resulting relationship with Pepper worked even if it wouldn’t in the real world, which wouldn’t be so generous. (For the record, Civil War screenwriter Stephen McFeely stated that her presence would have calmed Tony, but he needed to remain dark and angry in order for the events to play out as they did.) Tony never got “fixed’ by anything we saw on screen; the script just pushed him in that direction leaving the details to our imagination (other than the unwitting therapy session with Bruce Banner in Iron Man 3). Figuring out why is merely speculation. As complex as some of these MCU characters are relative to other movie characters, they’re still not real. They’re just two-dimensional characters driven more by dramatic forces than by real, psychological or logical ones.

It appears that Pepper’s behavior always served to advance the plot. She could hold Tony back or push him forward as needed, but she usually held him back. When she did so, her thought processes were wildly illogical, and that grated on me.

I don’t want to hate Pepper Potts, but I do. There. I said it.

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Dysfunctional to Functional Family: Tony Stark, Obadiah Stane, Spiderman, and Morgan Stark @ComicBook @BrandonDavisBD @Rowaenthe @TheJeffBridges @RobertDowneyJr #IronMan #QuarantineWatchParty #MCU #Spiderman

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June 30 was the first ComicBook.com quarantine watch party in quite some time. As always, I made a few more Twitter connections through the conversations that came from it. These conversations inspired three posts for my blog, this being the first one.

My posts aren’t about getting clicks. If no one read any of my posts, I wouldn’t really care. Writing them is more about catharsis than fame. Moreover, I’m no film student, psychologist, or sociologist, so I can’t break down the science of movie-making or human behavior. Instead, these posts are about analyzing the themes used within the movies due to my personal connection to their messages (accordingly, YMMV). As a result, my favorite posts have been about Nebula’s Redemption, my comparison of Shazam! and Guardians of the Galaxy, and others dealing with a particular theme. That theme is realizing and accepting that your idealized vision of family is complete nonsense, breaking away from those abusive relationships, and appreciating the family you didn’t realize was in front of you the whole time (though for me personally, the third has been elusive). Not everyone has these experiences, but it’s a recurring theme in superhero movies. I never considered that the first Iron Man movie implicitly raised issues related to this theme.

Father Figure

Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) father died, and then Tony disappeared for a while. This isn’t surprising considering how self-absorbed he is, but when he returned to Stark Industries, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) must have served as a father-figure for him. Before I go forward, I want to mention . . .

Tony didn’t show as much respect for Obadiah as you would want to see from your own child, but Tony didn’t ever show much respect for any authority figure, so it’s still fair to assume Obadiah acted as an adoptive father to him. That is, Obadiah wasn’t merely a coworker, boss, or even family friend. Assuming that, it must have been absolutely devastating for Tony when he realized Obadiah had called for his removal from the company, and even worse, his death. That betrayal would hold back Tony’s growth, which became a slow burn throughout the Infinity War saga. It helps make Tony’s grief over Black Widow’s death as believable as that of any other character despite his never overtly expressing that grief or deep feelings for her. It wasn’t until the first Avengers that Tony showed a willingness to “lay down on a wire” for his allies, but his ego made sure that no one would forget that. Somehow, it was still about him . . . until he started to understand fatherhood in Captain America: Civil War.

Peter Parker and Morgan Stark

In Civil War, Tony latched onto Peter Parker/Spiderman. At first, he was looking for a little more firepower to take down Team Cap ®©TM℗SM, but by Infinity War it was clear he had a genuine emotional attachment to Peter.

By Avengers: Endgame, he was devastated because he “lost the kid,” but he got a second chance in that film. Tony’s life became about Pepper and their daughter, Morgan. He was reluctant to restore the Vanished because doing so threatened what he had finally found after a lifetime of searching, even if it meant giving up on his filial figure, Peter.

Tony’s progression from self-absorbed brat to the guy who’d “make the sacrifice play” was 22 movies long probably because of Obadiah more than anything else we saw, but Tony made it there, and that wound up saving half the universe.

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