Friday, July 22, 2016

Why do we have such a strong emotional reaction to plagiarism?

Earlier this week, Melania Trump's speech writer (and her by proxy) plagiarized parts of Michelle Obama's speech that she gave to democrats eight years ago at the Democratic National convention. When news of this broke, basically the internet lost its collective mind. I'm no republican and no fan of Trump, but it did get me wondering why (as a society) we despise plagiarism.

Here's what I worked out in my head. Plagiarism is stealing, just like someone helping themselves to something in your house. It's walking right in, grabbing a television, or grabbing your favorite console gaming device, and walking out the door with it. It makes sense to feel victimized (if you are the victim of plagiarism). It makes sense that other people would support you feeling victimized, because they don't want it to happen to them.

But why do we feel this way? Do they feel the same way in communist China? I would think that in a communist country like China that there'd be no sense of ownership when it comes to words (or any other kind of intellectual property). If you go far enough to the left in American politics, you eventually arrive at socialism which then turns to communism in the extreme (if you go far enough to the right you also arrive at fascism). So I started to think...who would be more upset over plagiarism? Those on the left or those on the right? From what I've observed, it seems to be those on the political Left. Those on the political Right seem to be (for the most part) completely okay with plagiarism.

I find this fascinating because the whole journey from the exact middle (between both Republican and Democrat) is a sliding scale to both sides. Technically, as you journey left you should encounter "in degrees" attitudes and biases that signal that a person is "less and less" attached to personal property as it all becomes a kind of shared commune where everyone helps everyone equally and no one person is any more important than another. As you slide to the right, you would encounter people who "more and more" believe that personal property is as important as identity, and this would lead to fear and paranoia that everyone was out there eyeing what was yours (and plotting to rip it from your hands). All of this is just theory by the way.

But this isn't what happened. I suppose all humans are illogical, and it makes no sense to try and put them into boxes (even though that's what my mind sometimes tries to do).

And the fact is that we live in a society that hates thieves. I know I'm no exception. As someone who does place themselves on the political left, I'm just wondering why I have an emotional reaction to plagiarism, and whether or not I feel that way because I was born and raised in America.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Netflix had a disastrous quarter and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that "Netflix and Binge" is an unsustainable business model.

Yesterday on CNBC there was all kinds of speculation as to why Netflix stock is tanking. Most of it has to do with how they are hemorrhaging subscribers. I don't personally have any stake in Netflix, so I feel like weighing in on this topic by observing what I see in my friends.

As a caveat, I don't have any friends with similar tastes at all. I just haven't found any. Everyone I know is as different to me as black is to white. So it's no surprise that I also differ in how I watch my television. I like watching shows that put their episodes out a week at a time, one at a time. Yep...I'm not a "Netflix and binge" kinda guy. I don't mind waiting in lines. I was raised that patience is a virtue and that the best things come to those who wait.

I have a friend that's completely different of course. He prefers consuming everything like gorging at a table and stuffing food down his mouth with a shovel. The faster one can get "through" something, the more time that is left for binging on video games...literally staying up for 48 hours in a row until eyes are raw and body odor is thick. He said (and I think he thought himself "wise" at the moment) that, "Netflix sees how it should be done. They put up the whole season, they put lots of money into it to make it excellent, and then the consumer is rewarded by being able to watch it all at once, free of commercials, and without having to wait." Nevermind that he actually pirates the programming. I suppose it's us (the subscribers out here in "real life" land) that actually pay for things like "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones." The point that I'm making here is that someone who is completely devoted to consuming content, can do so and basically run out of things to watch before a single month is out (plowing through basically every original series). Then a "pat" on the back ensues because (at most) they paid like $10 bucks if they weren't using a friend's password to begin with, and they proclaim loudly as to what a deal they got.

And yeah...they got a really good deal. But it was a shitty one for the company that will have little incentive to keep producing good content if all they get is ten measly bucks.

Anyway, it's this kind of consumer that is in fact, threatening to destroy Netflix. It may seem brilliant at the moment (for them to load entire seasons up at once), but the fact that Netflix has gone down in subscribers (despite increasing the amount of countries that have Netflix available into the hundreds) is a tell-tale sign that people are binging, and then canceling their subscription (if they even bother to pay at all). So it's an unsustainable business model. They think they can blow billions of dollars on original series and by doing so inspire loyalty in their subscribers. However, human nature is way different. Most humans want to maximize their gains. No one wants to be "taken advantage of" and when a good deal comes along, many will rape the deal to make sure to maximize what they get out of it. So with Netflix, what happens is that people consume and then bail until such time as there is more to consume. Netflix is in fact pouring so much money into their original content, that it has affected their ability to secure series and movies from other sources. As an example, if you maintained your subscription you probably have noticed that Starz bailed on Netflix taking lots of movies with it.

I am not one of those people (and I suppose am in the minority). I realize that if I want to continue to have good content, I need to pay for it. But there are fewer people like me out there all the time, and more people like the friend I just described who "gluttonizes" content and doesn't pay a thing. It'll be interesting to see what changes Netflix makes in the future. Perhaps they're going to have to start releasing shows with only one episode a week. I imagine that will cause yells and screams from people across the world. However, as I see it the other way they've been doing things isn't going to work. It's like that old saying, "Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he depopulates the ocean by making a business that employs low-wage slaves and pollutes the water to maximize his total gain."

Yep, I'm sure that's how that saying goes. If not...the way I wrote it is definitely more accurate.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Grand Admiral Thrawn is in the Star Wars Rebels season three trailer and that's a pretty big deal

This weekend Star Wars: Rebels released its trailer for the third season, and among the surprises was the appearance of a fan favorite: Grand Admiral Thrawn from the Timothy Zahn trilogy that I read when I was going to college in the early nineties. Heir to the Empire was a fantastic book, and it hit at just the right time as I was getting heavily involved in the Star Wars RPG that was published by West End Games (I should have held onto my books). Aside from being very well written, Grand Admiral Thrawn was this evil, calculating, military genius that studied alien civilizations through their art and culture, and then figured out how to defeat them. Additionally, Zahn also introduced an alien called an ysalamiri that could create a bubble that pushed away the force, effectively neutralizing it. This is very useful stuff when you have to deal with Jedi and Sith on a regular basis.

Ever since reading that trilogy, I'd wondered if Grand Admiral Thrawn would ever make it to some kind of movie or television series. And now (it appears) that he's canon, although whether or not he will follow the plotline outlined by Zahn's narrative remains to be seen (as Grand Admiral Thrawn survived the destruction of the Death Star and would be more in the timeline of "The Force Awakens"). So seeing him in Star Wars: Rebels makes me think that Disney liked the ideas behind the character, but has something else in store for him that has nothing to do with the extended universe stuff.

Anyway, if you haven't seen the trailer yet (and you're a Star Wars fan) hit play below.

Friday, July 15, 2016

I wish I had a life as interesting and carefree as my Pokemon Go avatar promises his would be.

I think my Pokemon Go avatar wears drawstring jeans. I don't even know where you can buy drawstring jeans. Tokyo maybe? He's also much more fashionably dressed for a street punk than I could ever be. He's got spiked hair, wears a cool backpack, and has fingerless gloves. You know, the kind that weight lifters and bikers have that are black and made of leather. But he's still a punk because he looks like he's fifteen years old. It's a good thing he's got sneakers too, because he walks a lot.

Needless to say, my Pokemon Go avatar doesn't look anything like me. But maybe that's the point. Japanese anime always features cute guys and girls who have kind of a gender fluid look, small noses, and long necks. In the worlds of Final Fantasy, Pokemon, Attack on Titan, and Miyazaki, men have always looked more like Tom Holland (who played Spiderman in Captain America: Civil War) than they've ever looked like John Wayne. Usually, the ones that do look like John Wayne (if they're present at all) are there to be villainous.

In the far east I think chest hair is the equivalent of wearing all black in the west. Or in the least, having chest hair is the equivalent of owning a wand, all black, heavy, and with a core of asbestos. Nothing good could ever come from that.

Did you know that in Japan they have a special soap that gets rid of "old person smell?" It's true, and you can check it out here at this website. If you don't know what old person smell is, it is a "troublesome type of body odor caused by a substance called Nonenal that cannot be eliminated by conventional soaps." I'm sure you've smelled it in nursing homes or visiting your grandparents. I guess my point is not that this "persimmon green tea" soap exists, rather it's that I'm not surprised that the Japanese invented it. Any society that finds body hair undesirable is going to have persimmon green tea soaps. It's an acknowledgement that, "Yeah we all age, but it doesn't mean you have to let it all go. Keep it in check, would you? There are young people about that think you're gross. Stop scaring them."

I wish I had a life as interesting and carefree as my Pokemon Go avatar promises his would be. Aside from being forever young, he looks like he's comfortably sexual and attractive even though I have no idea to whom he'd be attracted to. He's just a bunch of pixels on a screen with perfectly toned skin. And because he's computer generated, I think it's safe to say that he doesn't experience sexual attraction at all as far as I know. So he just walks around, never making a misstep or catching his shoe on uneven ground and tripping. He's privy to the strange world of invisible monsters that supposedly live all around us and by capturing them he gets powerful. He gets stronger as time goes on. By contrast, I get weaker and need to sit down. But at least I'm off the couch.

I think I know why my Pokemon Go avatar doesn't have any wrinkles. I think it's because he doesn't have a soul-sucking job or have to figure out how to afford a house in areas where affordable housing is as mythical as a Pokemon. He also doesn't face the consequences of looking "different." His monsters dance a jig and look cute. Real world monsters are beliefs and attitudes and you can't just zap them with a pokeball.

If only it were that easy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

This week is the time when we all time warp back to the eighties and indulge in Ghostbusters and Stranger Things.

I once berated nostalgia. You can find that post HERE if you want to read about it. But my mood has changed since the days when I penned that blog post. This week we're getting a Ghostbusters reboot that I'm looking forward to seeing, and a huge game called Pokemon Go is allowing me to visit the Pokemon craze that I first noticed as a young adult. Though I'm certainly not a big Pokemon Go player, walking around to collect them will probably get me some much needed exercise.

But the thing I'm looking forward to the most this weekend is when Stranger Things lands on Netflix. Early reviews say that it's pretty brilliant. I know one reviewer said it has a retro credits sequence and a John Carpenter-esque score so I'm kind of sold on those two things alone. It also has a brooding atmosphere that is a combination of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg. Steven Spielberg was a film god in the seventies and eighties and King is hit and miss, but I have a feeling that only the best parts of King will be on display here.

Stranger Things also promises to explore some J.J. Abrams-esque "science fiction" parallel worlds stuff like we saw in Fringe. For the record, I loved Fringe.

So I guess this week is the time when we all time warp back to the eighties and indulge in Ghostbusters and Stranger Things. That is, if you can manage to pull yourself away from Pokemon Go.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Take a look at Bodycote's Periodic Table of Fictional Metals and Alloys because it actually is pretty cool.

A guy named Jim Seward reached out to me about my post on "Fictional Metals," which can be found HERE. In that post I talk about several metals that are used in comic books. I have another related post found HERE that speaks about my own use of fictional metals in my science fiction/fantasy books. Anyway, Jim wrote, "I read your piece on fictional metals with interest and thought you might enjoy THIS, which is an interactive periodic table of fictional metals, it’s a recently completed content piece by Bodycote, an international metal heat treater and I was wondering whether you would like to feature it on your blog as it seems to be a good match for your audience. Attached is a press release and some images for your use."

I pasted the image below, but you can follow the link embedded above to the table and click on it. It's pretty cool (if you have the time and interest to do so).

June 2016

BODYCOTE SPONSORS THE PERIODIC TABLE OF FICTIONAL METALS

Materials treatment company takes interactive look at fantastical metals

MACCLESFIELD (U.K.) — Creative people have long invented metals with mythical or magical qualities. Fictional metals have appeared in classical myths, books, films, comics and computer games for many years.

Bodycote has a long history of working with various metals to increase their performance and meet their customers’ requirements. Sometimes, though, in the myriad worlds of fiction, real metals just don’t do what the author needs. The idea to research fictional metals was inspired by a heat treatment request to case harden Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer); however no one could pick it up to load it in to the furnace.

Popular culture has given us an extensive list of metals and alloys with fantastical qualities. In addition to Marvel Comics, whose ‘vibranium’ and ‘adamantium’ are probably some of the best known due to recent cinematic releases, fictional metals have appeared in popular science fiction like Star Trek, Star Wars and Doctor Who, TV shows such as Game of Thrones and the X Files, literature like the Lord of The Rings and video games such as the popular Minecraft franchise.

Explore all these fascinating materials and many more in the Interactive Periodic Table of Fictional Metals. Visit the Interactive Periodic Table of Fictional Metals at http://www.bodycote.com/fictional-metals

- Ends -

About Bodycote
With more than 170 accredited facilities in 21 countries, Bodycote is the world’s largest provider of thermal processing services. Through heat treatment, metal joining, surface technology and Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP), Bodycote improves the properties of metals and alloys, extending the life of vital components for a wide range of industries, including aerospace, defence, automotive, power generation, oil & gas, construction, medical and transportation. Customers in all of these industries have entrusted their products to Bodycote’s care for more than 30 years. For more information, visit www.bodycote.com.

For further information, please contact:

Jim Seward | Inbound Marketing Manager




Wednesday, July 6, 2016

In today's Insecure Writer's Support Group post I wonder if anyone even likes alphabet soup?

It's the first Wednesday of July, and that means it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post.

If you like to write, you should keep writing. I think it's better to write garbage than nothing at all. The English alphabet has twenty six letters in it. Working together you sometimes get good things, and you sometimes get bad things. Maybe you get bad things more than good things. Maybe some of the things you write have the potential to embarrass you if they fall into the hands of the wrong audience. We live in a society that loves to attack people for being different. Writing is no exception. We have fat shaming and race shaming and politics shaming and belief shaming and beauty shaming and the list goes on and on. If you publish anything, someone (eventually) will try to break it down. But if no one ever tried to string any of the letters together, we'd never have Game of Thrones. You've heard of the saying "United we stand, divided we fall," right? It applies to letters too. Divided letters are just alphabet soup. Does anyone even like alphabet soup?

I've been insecure about my writing. You can't be a person these days and not be insecure about something. Being insecure about writing is easy. As soon as you take a stance or forge an opinion about anything you've invited someone else to weigh in on it. Don't even get me started on "dating" and the judgments that activity seems to elicit. Getting a bad review on Amazon is much better than the rejection one faces when (for example) one likes another person very much and the feelings just simply aren't reciprocated. I think every person knows what this is like to some extent (unfortunately more some than others).

There were brief spats of time when I refused to show my writing to anyone. I held high standards when I should have relished the fact that I have the ability to write well and consistently. I'm a good writer. I can string letters together to make words and then string words together to make sentences. It's a talent people think that everyone has, until you hire someone to make a website and they do great with the coding but spell things wrong all over the place. That's when you know that not everyone can write. We all have our talents. If you're a writer, even a mediocre one, you are already in possession of an uncommon skill whether or not society actually wants to pay you for it.

And no one is going to judge you if you don't show your writing to anyone. Life, however, is pretty meaningless if you don't take any risks. When we write, we are participating in an activity that is intensely private and self-reflective. It's this one thing that's perhaps the greatest magic of writing. The world drops away, and we become both dreamer and crafter. That's worth something isn't it?

Be kind to yourself and write. You can decide to publish later.

Write always. Write often.