Monday, January 26, 2015

Character Insight No. 129: David Marcus

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we jump back to the Star Trek movies with a look at David Marcus, the son of Captain Kirk who appears in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock.
 
 
David marcus.jpg
 ("That hair, though...hello 80's") 


David is the son of James Kirk and Dr. Carol Marcus, but he grows up in a single parent environment because Carol had split from Kirk and had banned him from being involved in his life. As a result, David becomes a scientist engaged in the research projects of his mother. 

While working on Project Genesis with Carol, David shows impatience with the process and adds protomatter to help speed positive results along. This works, but the protomatter also made the Genesis device highly unstable. When Khan lures Admiral Kirk to David and Carol's location under the guise of Kirk taking away the Genesis device, David initially engages in an argument and near fight with Kirk. When Carol intervened, Kirk guessed correctly that David was his son, which is the first time David knew his father.

David quickly turns his opinion around on his father though, thanks to watching him in action while serving as a technical advisor during the battle with Khan. He indicates this process makes his happy to be Kirk's son, although he is likely just as happy to finally understand his heritage and who both his parents are.

Quote: "I'm proud, very proud, to be your son."

David then serves on the Genesis planet with Lt. Saavik to study the effects of the terraforming project, and he discovers to his disappointment that the protomatter he added causes massive environmental instability. He does discover young Spock with Saavik though.

When Klingons arrive and demand the Genesis Device, David ends up sacrificing himself to save Saavik and young Spock's life. David's hot-headed nature and impatience likely stem from his father, and they sadly lead to some failures in Genesis and his death, just after discovering his heritage. The decision to sacrifice himself also leads to trouble for Kirk a few movies later, when his prejudice against Klingons for killing his son help lead to his framing and conviction for murder of a Klingon leader.

David was originally scripted to have a love interest or fling with Saavik, but the evidence of this was cut from what was filmed. Therefore, his legacy is slightly lessened from what it could have been, but he still plays a key role in the character development of Kirk during the movies. David's character allows us to view a glimpse of a different side of Kirk and a family life he was forced not to lead, and that makes him a valuable addition to the movies.

Merritt Butrick played David Marcus, and he was also known for playing in the 80's teen sitcom Square Pegs around the same time of his appearance in The Wrath of Khan. Just like the character he portrayed in Trek, Butrick tragically died in 1989 at the young age of 29 from toxoplasmosis complicated by AIDS, but his legacy lives on in the Final Frontier.

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Legal Geek No. 32: Does Copyright Enforcement Affect MLK Legacy?

This is the latest installment in a series of "Legal Geek" articles and audio segments regarding current events and trends where the geek world crosses streams with legal land.  An audio version will appear on the Current Geek podcast, available for direct download here.

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Welcome back to Legal Geek. This week, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. by taking a look at how his estate may be lessening his legacy by exploiting copyrights that have extended into near perpetuity.



(I have a dream...that someday my heirs will continue to profit from my image.)
  
This month the film Selma earned some critical praise and Oscar nominations, but it also earned hefty criticism for various inaccuracies and stretching of the truth. One of the more notable omissions from Selma are the actual speeches Martin Luther King gave during the civil rights movement. But that paraphrasing was intentional, and it's all thanks to copyright law.

Thanks to regular revisions to copyright law extending the term of copyright protection, the speeches written and delivered by Dr. King remain covered by copyright protection. In fact, the current copyright term is life of the author plus 70 years, which will enable Dr. King's heirs and estate to profit off his works until 2039. And this estate has been particularly litigious over the years, successfully suing companies like CBS and USA Today for using or printing full copies of famous MLK speeches. Which is ironic, since television and movie studios were the leaders of the recent charges to extend copyright protection terms.

That leads to an interesting conundrum when films like Selma come along, as the estate has already decided to exclusively license the rights to another studio Dreamworks for a future biopic made by Steven Spielberg. Thus, the filmmakers of Selma could not even approach the estate to include the actual speeches, and if they did, a significant copyright lawsuit and damages would have surely followed.

That seems to cheapen the legacy of this civil rights icon, as it makes things like the recent 50th anniversary of his speeches difficult to celebrate. Indeed, these speeches are such an important part of history that it seems inherently wrong that this genius cannot be shared with the world in textbooks and the like, for future innovators and great minds to build upon. All in the name of profit, such as when the estate received over $700,000 to authorize MLK's image to be used in the new MLK memorial in Washington DC. And that profit-grab just seems like a poor reason to effectively lock down and reduce the legacy of one of the true heroes of the 20th Century.

So remember cases like this when the copyright owner lobbyists begin to push for a further extension of the copyright term as expected in the next three years (like SOPA and PIPA, we should crowdsource strong opposition to stop such madness). 

Bottom Line: "Life plus 70 years" has already arguably exceeded any reasonable economic incentive needed to encourage authors to make creative works and it provides too much constraint to help contemporary authors eventually build on the creative works of others, as is the case in patent law where terms last only 20 years. Scenarios like the profiteering estate of Martin Luther King Jr. help confirm the fact that copyright terms should be limited in the future, not extended, to reconfirm the balance and purposes of copyright law. But that's just one IP attorney's opinion.

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Do you have a question? Send it in!

Thanks for reading. Please provide feedback and legal-themed questions as segment suggestions to me on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Character Insight No. 127: Keiko O'Brien

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we go from one TNG love interest to another, with a profile on Keiko O'Brien, a recurring character who appeared on TNG and Deep Space Nine.
 
 
Keiko O'Brien, 2374.jpg
 ("The woman behind Miles O'Brien, the guy who showed up in so many episodes of two different series!") 


Keiko serves as a civilian botanist aboard Starfleet vessels like the Enterprise-D. During her time aboard the Enterprise, Data sets her up for a date with transporter chief Miles O'Brien. That leads to a healthy relationship which eventually is consummated in a wedding conducted by Captain Picard. Miles and Keiko also welcome their first child Molly into the world while he is on the Enterprise, although it is during a crisis so Keiko has to be instructed by Worf on how to give birth 
("you may now give birth." - Disaster)

Perhaps as a result of her nature-based profession and Japanese heritage, Keiko loves to cook and especially dishes with seafood and plants like plankton loaf, much to the chagrin of her meat and potatoes loving husband Miles. Keiko also helped her grandmother with her calligraphy during youth in Japan, establishing one of many parts of a strong heritage she calls upon in her various roles in space.

Keiko actually does not make many appearances in TNG, although she is one of the central characters who gets turned into a child version of themselves in one of the worst episodes of this series Rascals. Thankfully, she is spared from continued silliness aboard Enterprise when she has to follow Miles when he is reassigned to Deep Space Nine. 

She opens a school on board the station, as there is no need for a botanist. However, she eventually closes this down after the school gets bombed and focuses on mothering Molly and pursuing other passions, like a six-month agrobiology expedition on Bajor. This also leads to her and Miles having a second child, although complications with the pregnancy forces the fetus to be transferred and carried in Major Kira's womb to ensure Keiko and Kirayoshi would survive. 

Her best episode is possibly Armageddon Game, where her knowledge of her husband Miles leads her to the conclusion that a security tape before he was allegedly killed in a weapon explosion is faked. That episode and her support of Miles in the episode Hard Time when he adjusts to returning to normal life after his mind is put through a life-time prison sentence shows the amazing strength and struggles many of us face in the long journey of marriage.

From the episode Armageddon Game:
Chief O'Brien: You know... I wouldn't mind a cup of coffee right now.
Keiko O'Brien: [surprised] Miles, you never drink coffee in the afternoon.
Chief O'Brien: Sure I do!
Keiko O'Brien: [stunned] You do?

Rosalind Chao played Keiko O'Brien, and she perhaps had even bigger hits in 80's appearances on After MASH as Klinger's wife and on Different Strokes. She's had smaller TV roles recently such as on The Neighbors and Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23.

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Character Insight No. 126: Dr. Leah Brahms

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, by suggestion, we profile Dr. Leah Brahms, a guest character who appeared on TNG.
 
 
Leah Brahms 2367.jpg
 ("Geordi doesn't know what to do with such a beautiful and brilliant scientist") 

Dr. Brahms is a member of The Federations's Theoretical Propulsion Group who made major contributions to the development of the warp drive system used on Galaxy class starships like the Enterprise-D. Her degrees in subspace and theoretical physics from the University of Alpha Centauri and the Daystrom Institute of Technology prepared her well to make critical improvements to the use of dilithium crystals and plasma resonance in a warp engine.

As a result of her major contributions, she is listed as the author of a series of engineering manuals that are seen when Enterprise crew members do engineering research. That also led Geordi La Forge to rely on a holographic version of Dr. Brahms when he needed more information on the engine design to stop the ship from falling to an ancient trap that drains energy out of ships until they are dead. Because it's Geordi, he falls for and kisses the holographic Dr. Brahms when they solve the trap. 

A year later, the real Dr. Brahms comes aboard to inspect field modifications made by Geordi. She is much colder and business-like than the holographic version, making it difficult for Geordi to work with her. She also turns further against Geordi when she discovers the romantic records of his previous dealings with her holographic representation. But these two characters pull together to overcome yet another crisis faced by the Enterprise, and this leads to the two characters becoming good friends.

From the episode Galaxy's Child:
Dr. Leah Brahms: I wouldn't change a thing - except for the way I behaved. I guess I came here with my own set of preconceptions about you.
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: Well, I guess I'm just glad that I got the opportunity to get to know you. The real you.
Dr. Leah Brahms: Me too. 


Geordi's reconnaissance in the holodeck makes him more smooth with Dr. Brahms than other women, but their friendship and potential romantic coupling was not officially confirmed in canon. However, Geordi and Leah are married in the alternate future seen in the TV finale All Good Things. The two characters were also to be depicted in a scene as a couple during Riker and Troi's wedding in Star Trek Nemesis, but actress Susan Gibney was unavailable, so the scene was rewritten to include Guinan instead. 

Thus, the canon leaves us waiting for more regarding whether this couple comes together in the end. For you romantics out there, this couple does come together in the Genesis Wave series of books and the novel Indistinguishable From Magic.

Dr. Brahms was originally written to be a descendant of Dr. Richard Daystrom, the founder of the Daystrom Institute, but this character was black while the hired actress was white. Thus, the character was renamed and rewritten to be merely a graduate of the Institute instead of a descendant. 

Susan Gibney played Leah Brahms, and she apparently plays a District attorney and a doctor well, having had those types of roles in Lost, Crossing Jordan, Criminal Minds, and Touching Evil. She will appear in a 2015 movie called We Are Still Here. 

Thanks to @KatJerome on Twitter for suggesting this character for this week's profile!

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Legal Geek No. 31: Aereo's Failed Copyright Theories and Outlook Heading into 2015

This is the latest installment in a series of "Legal Geek" articles and audio segments regarding current events and trends where the geek world crosses streams with legal land.  An audio version will appear on the Current Geek podcast, available for direct download here.

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Welcome back to Legal Geek. This week, we update one of the more compelling copyright law stories of 2014, that being the ongoing saga for cordcutting pioneer Aereo against the broadcast networks in court, to see where Aereo stands heading into 2015.



(Exactly what the cable companies want to kill forever.)
  
Back in June before Nerdtacular, this segment reviewed the Supreme Court decision that deemed that Aereo's subscription service that intercepts broadcast signals with mini antennae was copyright infringement against the networks. I deemed that Aereo would not survive in its current form in that previous segment, but has that come true?

Aereo was defiant in response to the Supreme Court decision, indicating it still had legal theories and arguments to rely upon to try and stop the broadcast networks' motion for an injunction to shut the company down. More specifically, Aereo argued that Section 111 of the copyright act would provide a compulsory license that had to be granted by the networks just like for cable TV providers protected under this Section of the copyright act.

The U.S. Copyright Office refused to recognize such a right to a compulsory license in July, so the battle went to the New York District Court judge handling the motions for injunction against Aereo. In late October, that judge ruled similarly that Aereo and other web providers are not entitled to the cable company protections of Section 111 like the right to force a compulsory license on the broadcast networks. 

To put it simply, the judge ruled that even though the Supreme Court deemed that the "public performance" requirement for copyright infringement was met by Aereo's service in a similar manner as it would for cable companies, that did not mean Aereo was actually a cable company. Instead, this decision confirmed the many years of case law holding that web companies like Aereo are not entitled to all specialized cable company protections in copyright law.

And with that, Aereo's last stand failed and a preliminary injunction stands against Aereo, at least as it pertains to rebroadcasting currently-airing television shows.

Aereo is now auctioning its web television technology under bankruptcy to help pay the bills, as $95.6 million of venture capital has dried up to a mere $3.6 million due to all this litigation. Aereo clearly still thinks there is a non-copyright-infringement use of its patented technology, and reports from Engadget say that at least 17 buyers are interested. However, it is clear that Aereo itself as an entity is waving the white flag and monetizing assets in bankruptcy to have money left over to finish litigation and pay damages, if necessary.

Bottom Line: Aereo is effectively dead, as expected. The legal arguments made by Aereo were not laughable in this process, and the Supreme Court was highly divided on the grounds for shutting this entity down, but the injunction and shutdown still occurred. If companies like this want to change the laws going forward, lobbying Congress will be the better avenue for change rather than fighting precedents in court.

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Do you have a question? Send it in!

Thanks for reading. Please provide feedback and legal-themed questions as segment suggestions to me on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Character Insight No. 125: Christmas in Star Trek

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we look into Christmas in the Star Trek universe.
 
 
Picard with Christmas tree
 ("If it seems to good to be true...") 

Unlike nearly every other episodic television show, Star Trek has rarely, if ever, jumped into the trope of a Christmas episode. Considering the 28 full seasons of the different iterations of the show, it's hard to believe this, but like Santa Claus, it must be true.

That's not to say the show has not come close on a couple occasions, but the full on trope of a Christmas episode is just not present. One of the closer episodes was Dagger of the Mind in TOS, in which a Christmas party is mentioned to have happened in the science labs aboard the Enterprise. Captain Kirk even spends a romantic evening with Dr. Helen Noel, an obvious reference to the holiday. But the Christmas party itself makes no appearance.

The only other mentions of Christmas are vague and small, such as in the holodeck and in log entries. In the TNG episode Devil's Due, Data is seen performing the Ebenezer Scrooge role in the play A Christmas Carol during one of the irrelevant fluffy uses of that series' favorite technology. In the DS9 episode Our Man Bashir, Dr. Bashir gives someone a set of exploding earrings for Christmas in another holodeck fantasy.

In Voyager, Shannon O'Donnell makes a personal log entry during the episode 11:59 about being happy that Christmas is over, and then Tom Paris later cracks a joke in the epsidoe Non Sequitur that three ghosts came to him in the middle of the night and explained the true meaning of Christmas. 

The final and perhaps most notable appearance of Christmas in this universe turns out to be another fantasy, as Picard experiences an alternative reality of being with his family on Christmas when trapped int he Nexus. Granted, Whoopi Goldberg on a small carousel doesn't show up in my Christmas celebrations, but the holiday experience could not be more clear than in this scene of Generations. 

It's been posited that the lack of Christmas in Star Trek is a reflection of humanity becoming largely secular and non-religious in this future universe. However, it seems likely that Christmas would go on as a secular celebration of family and goodwill, so it seems a bit strange that the subject matter is largely avoided over the many seasons of this show. Of course, the underlying tenets of the Federation and human society appear to put more emphasis on these things throughout the year in this future, so perhaps a big celebration of the same items is not as important. On the bright side, we don't have to put up with a cheeseball holiday episode as they most often become for other shows, but it is an interesting gap in the Star Trek universe.

If the lack of a holiday episode makes you sad, you can always check out Spirit in the Sky, which is an issue of the DC Comics TNG miniseries that makes Christmas a central story element. I'll leave it to Mike and Sunshine to review that!

The bottom line is, you don't need a holiday episode to get your family to snuggle around the couch and watch Star Trek this Christmas. It's a good time no matter what variety of Star Trek you watch. 

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Character Insight No. 128: Best of Miles Obrien

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we go back to the "Best Of" series with a look at the most notable episodes featuring Miles O'Brien of TNG and DS9.
 

Milesobrien.jpg
 ("The only Irishman who makes it to major character status in all of Star Trek") 

Miles shows up as more of a background character for the first couple seasons of TNG, and indeed, part of that was because actor Colm Meaney liked being hired on an episode-by-episode basis rather than a long run. However, shortly after he becomes a more important player as Transporter Chief, we learn he is subject to the risks of the honey-do list just like all other engaged and married men, in the episode Clues:

[O'Brien has hurt his arm]
Doctor Beverly Crusher: What on earth were you doing when you fell?
Chief Miles O'Brien: Hanging a plant for Keiko. It's part of her running project to give me a green thumb.
Doctor Beverly Crusher: How's it working?
Chief Miles O'Brien: Everything I touch seems to turn brown and wither away. 


Miles does have a sense of humor in this role, such as when he punks with yet another cranky old doctor who doesn't like the transporter in Shades of Gray:


[Dr. Pulaski reluctantly mounts the transporter platform]
Chief Miles O'Brien: I hope these are the right coordinates...
[she gives him an alarmed look]
Chief Miles O'Brien: Just kidding, Doctor. I know how much you love the transporter.
Dr. Kate Pulaski: About as much as I love comical transporter chiefs.


He raises his children with much the same wit and sense of humor, as shown in the DS9 episode Children of Time:

 Molly: Aren't you gonna help?
Chief O'Brien: I'm busy.
Molly: You don't look busy.
Captain Sisko: [laughs] She's an O'Brien all right.


It's not all fun and games though, as one of O'Brien's best character building pieces is Hard Time, an episode where Miles has trouble adjusting back to real life and nearly commits suicide in the process of PTSD.

[Chief O'Brien is holding a phaser under his chin, preparing to commit suicide]
Dr. Julian Bashir: Chief?
Chief Miles Edward O'Brien: Get outta here, Julian.
Dr. Julian Bashir: You don't want to do this, Chief.
Chief Miles Edward O'Brien: The hell I don't.
Dr. Julian Bashir: Look, I don't claim to know what you're going through, but whatever it is, it's not worth dying for.
Chief Miles Edward O'Brien: You don't understand at all. I'm not doing this for me. I'm doing it to protect Keiko and Molly and everyone else on this station.
Dr. Julian Bashir: Protect us from what?
Chief Miles Edward O'Brien: From me. I'm not the man I used to be. I'm dangerous. I nearly hit Molly today. All she wanted was a little attention, and I nearly hit her.
[He begins to sob]
Dr. Julian Bashir: But you didn't. You're a good man, Miles Edward O'Brien, and whatever it is you think you've done wrong, you don't deserve to die.


However, when it comes down to it, Miles is a great operations and transporter chief who is incredibly loyal to his crewmates and to his family. We learn about how he mentors best friend Julian Bashir to enjoy such family relationships near the end of DS9, in the episode Extreme Measures:

Chief O'Brien: Well, I'd better get home. Keiko is holding dinner for me.
Doctor Bashir: This late?
Chief O'Brien: Yeah, well, she's a helluva woman.
Doctor Bashir: That's why you love her.
Chief O'Brien: M-hm, that's right - that's why I love her.
[he is about to leave but comes back once more]
Chief O'Brien: You wanna come?
Doctor Bashir: Sure. 



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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...