2020 Takes Another Legend #SeanConneryRIP

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I saw Zardoz for the first time only a few weeks ago.

I also loved Finding Forrester.

There are clearly far too many others to list here.

RIP, Sir Sean Connery. Say hello to Eddie for us.

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Letdown Watch (So Far): The Expanse @ExpanseOnPrime #Good Watch

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I’ve been itching to activate a free, 30-day trial of Amazon Prime, mostly because of the Expanse. I’ve heard scientists explain how the show gets the physics of space travel better than any other show or movie before it, which also piqued my curiosity. I never thought I’d say this about this show, but with only a couple of episodes to go in season 1, I’m a bit bored. Surprisingly, the fact that it gets the science right isn’t that big of a deal. They produce drama around it, but they could (as so many other have) produce just as much drama around bad physics.

I haven’t given up hope on it. A fan of the show admitted that it starts off slow, and two of my all-time favorites, The Office and Parks & Recreation, both had weak first seasons to set up the series.

As always, YMMV.

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Good Watch: The Onion Movie @TheOnion @STARZ #GoodWatch

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I wanted to do something stupid, so I did. I watched the Onion Movie, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s the kind of movie that you can’t review. It’s just a ridiculous mess of funny anecdotes, each serving as a segue into the next. Just when I think it’s getting old, I suddenly find myself again laughing out loud at something ridiculously funny. It’s also great to see a snapshot of Hollywood in 2008, seeing which actors were on the rise, and which were on their way out. Plus, Jed Rees has a nice skit making fun of D&D players. That’s always fun for me. The Onion Movie is showing on Starz.

If you have a stupid sense of humor, this could be your thing too. As always. YMMV.

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Overrated Watch: Good Omens @michaelsheen #GoodWatch

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As I mentioned last Monday, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm inspired me to finally start my 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime. I’m otherwise uninterested in adding a 100th streaming service to my monthly bill. So, I asked the social media world what I should after Borat and received a ton of suggestions. Looking up everything, I settled on prioritizing the Expanse (I can’t believe I forgot that was available), Good Omens, Man in the High Castle, the Boys, and Undone. If there’s time, I’ll add Jack Ryan, Catastrophe, and Bosch. Practicing an analogue of Occam’s Razor, I chose Good Omens to start because it’s only six hours of content so far. I watched all six, 50-minute episodes this weekend.

Overall, it was decent, but I’ve seen too many movies and shows reimagining the apocalypse for modern times. Each adds a tiny twist. Tiny, not clever. I also get a bit annoyed by the overuse of flashbacks. Sometimes, holding back the history leading up to an event makes a lot of sense. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s just a gimmick. The first 30-some minutes of the sixth episode is a flashback, but it’s also the conclusion to the main story. There’s absolutely no reason for that, and little reason for the last 25 minutes. Finally, I was particularly annoyed by the theft of Sandra Bullock’s joke from Demolition Man (“lick butt v. kick butt”).

But it certainly wasn’t “bad.” If it were “bad,” I wouldn’t have finished it. Besides, if none of these things get on your nerves, you’ll probably like it a lot. It was still a good story delivered by a great cast. It was just a bit trite for my tastes.

David Tennant’s delivery reminded me of Bill Nighy. Every now and then, my mind would see Nighy delivering Tennant’s lines.

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Self-Awareness: The Fine Line Preventing Creepiness #gym #workout #creep

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I hate the gym. When I say I love it, I’m speaking of it relative to all others, so it’s a very low bar. Other than martial arts, I’ve never really liked working out. This despite blaring music of my own choosing into my ears, which I’d probably be doing if I went straight home. In short, it’s painful (because I do it right) and boring.

Because of the boredom, I noticed myself people-watching. I’m not just talking about particularly attractive people (oh, I do that too), but anyone who enters my field of vision. No one’s complained, but I know that’s really not a good thing to do in the gym. Would you like people watching you when you’re bent into weird positions, sweating like a pig, … well, you get the picture.

To avoid all of this, I stare at the ceiling when I’m working out (unless I’m distracted by my phone, which isn’t possible on the treadmill). I know that if I don’t, I’ll inevitably shoot a glance that will probably not be wanted.

So, nerds, pay attention to the effect you have on those around you. It shouldn’t be about making only yourself feel better.

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Sophmore Slump Watch: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm @SachaBaronCohen @RudyGiuliani

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Borat 2 inspired me to start a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime. I’m glad it was free.

Okay, that was a bit rough, but it makes for a good tagline, so I offer no apologies. Borat 2 wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t as good as his first movie. Maybe I was expecting too much. The charm of the first movie was Borat acting crazy and watching the honest reactions of unaware citizens. Too many people recognize him, so that’s much more difficult. The movie is amusingly self-aware of that fact.

The other strength of the first movie was that Borat never learned his lesson. He started the movie screwed up and ended it that way. Not so here. In Borat 2, Borat returns to the “U S and A” but through circumstance is paired with his daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova). The movie makes a story out of their relationship, and that’s why I don’t think it was as good. It’s supposed to be a feel-good story, but if you focus on the story as serious, the premise is far too depressing for a comedy.

But that’s okay, as long as we get Cohen’s over-the-top comedy, right? Well, there was only one cringe-worthy moment for me, which was when Tutar speaks to the group of Women Republicans. There was also a funny moment, let’s just say, related to abortion, but it wasn’t embarrassing. It was just a misunderstanding. I can get that from any comedy. I did laugh out loud on occasion, but not enough. In fact, at one point, I walked away from the TV to put water on for pasta. I wouldn’t be able to do that while watching the first movie.

As a side note, the Giuliani thing is greatly exaggerated, probably on purpose. I suspect it was intentionally overblown in order to hype the movie. It seems to have worked.

I hope I have better luck with the Expanse, the Boys, the Man in the High Castle, and Good Omens. If there’s time, I’ll add in Jack Ryan and Bosch.

I really wanted a proper sequel for Borat. As always, YMMV.

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The 20 Funniest Videos on YouTube? @YouTube @mashable #YouTube #Mashable

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Sundays are now lazy days for me. Going forward, I’m just going to re-post other people’s work or just do something silly. Today, it’s supposedly one of the 20 funniest YouTube videos according to Mashable. The list is over two years old, and the entries aren’t all original YouTube works (i.e., they’re direct copies of another show without even modifications), but I still find it somewhat lacking. Here’s an example:

This one’s my favorite.

Here’s another:

Look at the complete list and form your own opinion.

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Good Watch: Challenger @Netflix #GoodWatch

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Certain moments in history define a decade, such as John F. Kennedy getting shot and 9-11. Almost everyone remembers where they were when these events happened, or at least when they heard about them.

In 1986, I was a high school senior. I had transferred from a private (Catholic) high school to a public one, Walter Johnson, for my senior year. (I had to pay for my high school tuition, and knowing that I had to pay for college, needed a financial break.) I entered 5th period Chemistry class, and the teacher said, “The Challenger vaporized on launch.”

“Wasn’t that the one with a teacher on it?” asked a more dimwitted classmate.

“Yep. I don’t see how anyone could have survived.”

In 6th period architectural drawing class, the teacher brought in a TV, and we watched the coverage. I remember exactly how I felt. Challenger on Netflix brought all of that back to me.

The four-episode limited series covers the country’s excitement over the space shuttle program generally, and the Challenger mission in particular. It was the first time an “ordinary” citizen, in this case a teacher, was going into space. The thought around the country was that this was the first step towards space travel becoming an ordinary event for ordinary people. Everyone was in for one hell of a rude awakening.

I enjoyed this show. As always, YMMV.

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Good Watch: The Trial of the Chicago 7 @SachaBaronCohen @hitRECordJoe @netflix #GoodWatch

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I hate courtroom dramas. While I’m not a litigator, I can spot the nonsense when I see it, and legal dramas are always about “drama” first and “legal” last. The same is true for any industry. Some liberties were taken with the story, but based on a little research, this movie largely gets it right. And that story is frustrating. From Wikipedia:

Based on the story of the Chicago Seven, a group of eight defendants charged by the federal government with conspiracy in 1969 and 1970, inciting to riot, and other charges related to anti-Vietnam War and countercultural protests that took place in Chicago, Illinois, on the occasion of the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

The trial was a mess. The judge (ironically) showed nothing but contempt for the defense. All of the charges, including the numerous contempt charges, were overturned on appeal. The Seventh Circuit ordered a new trial, which the Attorney General declined to pursue.

Sacha Baron Cohen was awesome. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was awesome. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was awesome. Mark Rylance was awesome. Frank Langella was awesome.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is streaming on Netflix. There’s no reason not to watch this movie. As always, YMMV.

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Some More Wild Speculation on Margaret Weis, LLC & Tracy Hickman v. Wizards of the Coast, LLC Lawsuit @WeisMargaret @trhickman @Wizards @TheCancerThati1 @daflyondawall #WotC #DnD #RPG #Dragonlance

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I’m one of a wake of attorneys that was asked to comment on the recent filing of the above-referenced lawsuit. I’ve spoken my mind but always included my statements with the stereotypical legal caveat that we don’t have all the facts yet. This caveat exists for good reason and is clearly applicable here. All we have is one side of the story, and we don’t have the licensing agreement on which the entire case turns. Ergo, everything at this point is speculation, and I feel that there are enough people commenting that I don’t need to add to the chorus.

That said, there’s one thing that came up in a Twitter conversation that’s important to me, and I felt it was important to expand on it.

As I’ve written before, I no longer play D&D, but in my 19 years of playing it, I’ve never played anything in the Dragonlance setting, and I’ve certainly never read one of their novels. (I prefer non-fiction.) This suit has no bearing on my life personally, but certainly does so philosophically.

Why Do We Have Intellectual Property (“IP”)?

Many people assume that the goal of IP is to reward the creator, inventor, or producer. That’s incorrect. The reward is the means to achieve the real goal, which is to make sure that the public — you and I — has access to plenty of art (copyrights) and technology (patents); can instantly know whether they want to purchase particular goods or services based on brand names (trademarks); and have access to lots of other products not otherwise protectable (trade secrets). We assure that goal is reached by giving those creators, inventors, and producers a financial incentive to do what they do by granting them a “limited monopoly” on their endeavors. However, in the end, the point is to serve the public interest. If that interest isn’t being served, why grant the limited monopoly in the first place? There are several exceptions to IP that prove my point, but they’re not relevant here.

Campaign Settings Gone AWOL

Wizards of the Coast (“WotC”) owns the rights to several campaign settings that haven’t had anything significant published in years. We know that WotC will be publishing works within three classic campaign settings in the near future, but we don’t know how extensive those efforts will be, or what their nature will be (e.g., novels, campaign settings, living campaigns). However, it’s been a long time coming, and there are still plenty of other campaign settings that won’t be published soon. How long will we have to wait for those?

When I raised that issue via Twitter, someone with a better sense of their profitability pointed out that it made no financial sense for WotC to publish them. I believe him, and in fact it’s hard not to. After all, WotC isn’t publishing them (or is just getting around to doing so). Obviously, despite their popularity, WotC can’t financially justify producing them. A smaller (yet still competent) company could do so, but only if WotC’s contract terms aren’t so draconian as to make it unprofitably even for them. To my knowledge, this licensing is open only for novels anyway, so we’re still looking at the suppression of the IP with respect to the actual game where they belong.

My Philosophical Issue

The entire point of IP is to get that IP to the public. As steward of these properties, WotC should (not must) get that material to the public. However, the situation effectively uses IP to do the very opposite. The limited monopolies are being used to horde the material, so there’s no legal, viable means through which that material can be marketed to the public. That’s a big problem for me. As I asked above, what’s the point of granting the rights if it means the public won’t get access to the material?

Wies/Hickman v. WotC

According to the Complaint, WotC wants to walk away from the deal altogether. If that’s true, then WotC stands to gain nothing from the Dragonlance IP. We’re right back to square one with that property, but the important point is that WotC themselves have nothing to gain from the property, so they have nothing to lose if the property is transferred to Weis and Hickman.

There’s no legal basis of which I’m aware for stripping WotC of their copyrights in these other campaign settings, so I don’t want to see that happen by force. They acquired the property fair and square. However, if WotC is in the wrong here, and this suit gives Weis and Hickman the leverage to take ownership of the Dragonlance IP, WotC breaks even, and everyone else wins. I wouldn’t be upset if that happened. I suspect that if Weis and Hickman did get the license back, then they’d produce a lot more Dragonlance content than WotC ever would. When I suggested that on Twitter, I received this response:

Infer what you will from that. I did.

What are the odds of this happening? Probably slim to none, but wouldn’t that be something else?

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Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, guys?)