20 May 2010

Your Late Morning Platter of Link Sausages

  • Such a sad, sad story: Megan Fox will not be appearing in Transformers 3 because she couldn't keep her mouth shut about how much it sucked, both as a film and as a working environment. Ms Finke continues on to excoriate Shia LaBouef for much the same thing (but regarding a different film) without ever noting the ultimate problem: Actors do bad jobs with bad scripts. When even as unskilled an actor as Megan Fox complains about it, somebody should consider replacing the screenwriter first — perhaps along with the actor, but certainly at the same time. Getting a competent director might not hurt, either... even for material as mindless as Transformers. And sometimes, even directors who are competent at one type of film have to recognize their limitations; over the years, Spielberg has demonstrated that his ability to control pacing and perspective fits slower-paced films much better than faster-paced ones.

    Yeah, they're all egotistical and overly impressed with their own roles in the process... and not willing to look at the foundation for their roles. Although there are a very, very few instances of a silk purse made out of a sow's ear, and a disturbingly large number of instances of making a patchwork leather pouch (with lots of holes in it) starting from fine silk, the probability of getting a silk purse goes up quite a bit when one uses silk as one's basic material. That's news in Hollywood, right?

  • In an effort to avoid cultural irrelevance (and a terminal "Th-th-th-th-th-that's all, folks!"), Warner is producing new Looney Toons material for Cartoon Network. Do I sense the possibility of Acme Internet Search Engine and an official Facebook page for Bugs Bunny? Or will Elmer Fudd become an official 'net spokesperson for the NRA (as if he isn't already)? Foghorn Leghorn Meets Don Tyson?
  • Jay Lake muses on monocultures and unintended consequences as flaws in worldbuilding. I agree with him, and think that he goes not nearly far enough; for example, what does imposing a Napoleonic naval command structure on "space navies" say about the ability of Able Spaceman Spiff to actually repair his high-tech yardarms? These flaws, however, reflect a more fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific method and how to solve algebraic equations... especially in fantasy.

    There is no situation in which life's lack of controls, impure reagents, and inconsistent lab technique does not produce unexpected — indeed, dominant — results. To put it another way, the real world — and, in particular, the real world that is wide enough to produce setting, character, and motivation for a story — is not a nice, clean set of just enough equations to isolate each variable in turn. The command structures of wooden ships and iron men just doesn't work so well when the ships are made out of iron... let alone out of unobtanium alloys. And, conversely, one cannot impose such a command structure on a society that posits that even the drones stoking the space-cannon are well-educated and -trained enough to survive in space (the second-most-hostile environment yet encountered by humanity1), let alone do highly technical jobs in space; the drones aren't going to put up with rum, sodomy, and the lash as their basic social structure while stuffed in their various tin cans. Hell, all anyone needed to do was take a look at the distinctive disciplinary problems of the all-volunteer force after the end of the draft... and then consider who ended up being drafted in the first place.

    In many ways, it gets even worse with fantasy. If magic (in whatever form it takes) is powerful enough to influence society, it is going to influence society; and if it is not powerful enough to influence society, its mere possibility will still do so. Remember, among his contemporaries, Newton was first (and perhaps best) known for his inquiries into alchemy, not into mechanics, and his fame among his contemporaries never really reached the level of John Dee's. So, if there's a means of violating the fundamental laws of thermodynamics and applying energy to human problems without apparent input of such energy, there will be social consequences... perhaps a draft, followed by working in fields to support preindustrial food production, rather than a William Morrisish stint at an unspeakably luxurious wizard's school.

  • Professor Boyden muses a little more on fan fiction, unfortunately undercutting his point a bit by concentrating solely upon copyright law in his legal analysis... but using the language of allusion in his descriptions, which in turn is more like an entirely different kind of misbegotten fantasy "retelling" that would be a vast improvement over most fanfic. (Hell, it would be a vast improvement over way too much commercially published fiction, but that's an argument for another time.)

    My point is not that fan fiction has nothing whatsoever to do with copyright, nor that trademark/unfair competition analysis (e.g., Restatement (3d) of the Law of Unfair Competition § 25 — unfortunately, there's no online version that I've found satisfactory that is not behind a paywall) must predominate. Instead, it's somewhere in the middle... but unfair competition probably provides a better, or at least more coherent, starting point than does copyright law.

  • As a Yank, I didn't get to vote in the recent UK elections. (Well, duuuuuh.) As a Yank, though, I'm going to see a heavy impact from the UK elections. The biggest danger of an outright Tory victory would have been the shelving of any realistic chance of reforming England's repulsive libel law, as too many public school old boys (and those who want their children to be public school old boys, regardless of gender) view the UK's libel law as the only means they have of restraining the less salubrious elements of England's press. (Curious how the US doesn't really have those same elements, despite our less-favorable-to-plaintiffs libel laws...) Fortunately, it appears that the Liberal-Democrat influence on the governing coalition will produce at least some efforts toward libel reform... by keeping the bill as a private members' bill, not an official government effort.

    As of yet, there are frustratingly few specifics. And they matter to those outside the UK, due to the UK courts' historical willingness to assert jurisdiction over imported publications (such as 23 copies bought over the 'net)... and the unwillingness of US courts to raise the bullshit flag over it, despite the dubious choice of law issues involved that appear to violate both international norms and the European Union's own fundamental law — both of which allow a nation to have legal frameworks to protect reputation, but only as exceptions to a general freedom of expression. Unfortunately, UK libel law, as it stands now is exactly backwards: Freedom of expression is an exception to protection of reputation.

  • Laura Anne Gilman describes some of the numbers that go along with charge cards when one pays on credit. Of course, there's another issue lurking behind all of this: The tyranny of quantized units of billing and time, which doesn't match up all that well with the nonquantized version that freelancers (and solo practitioners!) live under. Her general advice, though — pay it off as soon as you can, or you'll be foregoing more opportunities later — makes a great deal of sense for most people.

  1. The most hostile being, of course, high school.