Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Tag: Rants

Campaigning to Lose Votes

A few months ago, I was at a popular local ice cream place, digging in to a much-too-large-to-be-kiddie-sized cup of ice cream when I noticed a prominent local politician approach other ice cream eaters around me.

“Ooh, cool,” this political junkie thought to himself. “One day when this person is nationally important, I’ll be able to say to blog that I shook them by the hand.”

Except, I didn’t.

This local politician of some renown walked up to the people on the bench in front of me and talked with them for a while. Then to the bench next to me. Then behind me. And then to every other bench in the area except mine. And then they- politician+entourage- left.

I may not fit any ‘demographic’ that the campaign was trying to target. And I may not even look like a citizen to the narrow-minded suburban. But even if the potential upside of shaking my hand was negligible, the potential downside is significant. I was turned from a voter indifferent to a voter scorned. More importantly, a blogger scorned.

And dictatorships hath no fury like a blogger scorned.

First: An Ode to the TSA

I created this video on a whim. I call it: “First, They Came for the Box Cutters”

Unfree Culture and The Science Fiction Wars of 1978

In 1978, 20th Century Fox studio sued Universal for “stealing 34 distinct ideas” from the then recently, immensely successful film “Star Wars”: to create “Battlestar Galactica”. This was one year after the release of _Star Wars_ and an old, hackneyed genre had just been revived. At the time, Universal said that _this is like the first Western movie ever suing the second one_.

George Lucas visited the production of BSG and decided not to link his name with the law suit. 20th Century Fox, however, pressed on. Universal countersued with a claim that _Star Wars_ (particularly R2D2) was lifted from Universal’s own film _Silent Running_. Maybe it’s time for some descendant of the Brothers Grimm (the great-grandchildren Grimm?) to come knocking on Disney’s front doors with legal papers- suing them for every cent they’ve made since _Snow White_.

A few major _Star Wars_ co-conspirators were major players on the original BSG production as well- John Dykstra, Dennis Muren- which also played a major part in the common “feel” to them both.

There is a “fantastic article from 1978”: called *ABC’s Multi-Million Dollar SF Gamble: Battlestar Galactica* which closes with these two interesting paragraphs which hint at more issues than just copyright and derivative works:

Once all the charges of copyright infringement and the other legal elbowing have subsided, and once other modern space fantasies like Buck Rogers, Star Trek — The Motion Picture, Starcrash, and Flash Gordon have come out to keep Galactica company, it will be more evident that Galactica was innovative in many ways all its own — not the least of which is its courageous, almost carefree use of funds in the hope of bringing to the public a TV fantasy of unparalleled quality. And some of the daring can be seen in things that neither zoom, blast, flash, or explode.

When, since the days of the Untouchables, have we seen such exciting wholesale slaughter on our livingroom screens? And it happened during the very season when the networks have been bragging that at last they have censored physical conflict from the screen. The full extent of the ramifications of a successful Galactica on TV programming is yet to be seen, but it will certainly be interesting to watch.

Ah, good old 1978. It was the best of time, it was the worst of times. Television bosses were actively censoring TV. Major studios were trying to control the fate of genre media. Journalists were hoping for a future that resembled a rose-tinted past. And beneath the surface, a vast array of creators were waiting to unleash their derivative works that had the potential to change the face of a genre, at the very least, and media in general if we were lucky. In short, it was a time much like today.

Love is Old, Love is New

Lucy in the Sky

Originally uploaded by DevanJedi.

I was in Vegas in April of this year and saw Cirque du Soleil’s Love– a truly magnificent tribute to The Beatles through their music and Cirque’s visual extravagance.

The show opens with one of the last songs The Beatles recorded- “Because” for Let it Be. John Lennon is quoted as having said that the song is based on Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven. Listen to both, and you know he’s right.
(“Video of Moonlight Sonata”: on YouTube)

This got me to thinking about fair use. Would Lennon (or his lawyers) have risked it if the Sonata was still under copyright? There were “only” about 170 years between Moonlight Sonata and Let it Be, so in modern copyright terms, they were cutting it a little close.

Think that’s a stretch? Remember, Rep. Mary Bono channeling Jack Valenti once asked Congress for “forever less one day” copyright terms.

Note: I know that Lennon’s use would probably be ruled as fair use in a reasonable court of law. That is not the issue. The issue is that fear of litigation may have prevented Lennon (or his producers) from ever releasing “Because” in to the wild and ours would have been a poorer culture for that.

Wobble and Clock

I walked by a “Brookstone”: the other day and saw this:
Wobble and Bob

Now this may seem like a totally random and totally acceptable clock to many people. These people are clearly not fans of the funniest cartoon on the Internet, a.k.a. “Weebl and Bob”: about the wobbling, oval shaped Weebl and sometimes his friend Bob. Now tell me the Brookstone folks thought up the name _Bob Wobble Clock_ without ever having seen Weebl & Bob!

To prove I am not crazy, or at least my form of madness is common, here’s “another blogger”: who had the same idea.

An Open Letter to Barack Obama from an Indian American

*UPDATE*: _Mr. Barack Obama released an “official statement today”: (6/18/07). The words “the memo’s caustic tone, and its focus on contributions by Indian-Americans to the Clinton campaign, was potentially hurtful, and as such, unacceptable,” were especially important for me to be able to support him in the future. My letter of two days ago follows:_

Dear Mr. Obama,
The “recently disclosed memo”: from your campaign that faulted Sen. Clinton for associating with Indian Americans is depressing. As an Indian American, and one that has supported you since the beginning of your Senate campaign, your painting of Indian Americans as the new foreign boogeyman has me leaning away from your campaign. (Let me make it clear that I am referring to Americans of Indian origin). Read the rest of this entry »

Habeas Corpus and Other Quaint Ideas From the Past

While I admit that there may be some geeky fashions and some fashion geeks, here at Science Addiction I try to stay away from fashion. But this one is different.

See, back in the 20th century- and in fact, much earlier- there used to be a quaint concept called Habeas Corpus that was quite in vogue. Now, along with the dot-com boom (renamed as Web2.0) and the Y2K crisis (renamed as Daylight Savings bug), this idea from the past is making a come back!

It’s all Greek to me, you say. Well, it’s Latin, young Geek. Habeas Corpus, literally translated as you have the body.

In the legal system, in many countries around the world including the United States, it means that a person detained by the government has the right to seek relief from unlawful imprisonment. The United States Constitution specifically states that it shall not be suspended, unless there is a rebellion or invasion and the public safety requires it.
Read the rest of this entry »

95 Theses of Geek Activism

Geek activism has not taken off yet, but it should. With the gamers recognizing the need for a louder voice, EFF gaining momentum and Linux taking on the mainstream on the one hand and recent severe losses in privacy, freedom of speech and intellectual property rights on the other, now seems to be the best time to rally around the cause.

Geeks are not known to be political or highly vocal (outside of our own circles)- this must change if we want things to improve. So here is my list of things people of all shapes, sizes and sides of the debate need to know. Some of these are obvious, others may not be meant for you. But hopefully, some of these will inspire you to do the right thing and others will help you frame the next discussion, debate or argument you have on these topics. Read the rest of this entry »

O’Reilly, CMP and the Web 2.0 Service Mark

The controversy started- for those not paying attention- when CMP served a cease-and-desist letter to an Irish non-profit for using the term “Web 2.0” in the name of their conference. Bad move- the blogosphere went in to attack mode and O’Reilly (who runs the conference and is associated with CMP) will never have quite the same reputation again. Before the blogosphere outrage over “CMP’s claim of Web 2.0 as a service mark for conferences”: dies down, I have a few things to say. Read the rest of this entry »

“If you aren’t doing anything wrong…”

Everyone has heard of the classic defense of every violation of our privacy, of every move towards a police state:

“If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?”

I hate that line, but there isn’t a comeback to it that is quite as cutting and apt. So here are many ideas from Bruce Schneier and, as an article, it is the perfect sledgehammer for that depressing slogan of the security over privacy brigade. Read the rest of this entry »