With All the Possible Universes…

If you’re a science fiction and fantasy film fan and don’t want to read all this, in short, it’s about Star Trek fan films and you can skip to the 2nd paragraph after the “2).” What I have before that is building the case.
I know a lot of people have been upset over CBS and Paramount’s suing the fan Star Trek production Axanar. (Basically once Axanar made $1 million in pledges on Kickstarter, CBS-Mount jumped in to sue them.) Now look at this: CBS has warned the producers of Horizon that it’s best for them to not produce their sequel. I don’t know if this is their “no cost” way of stopping fan productions or if they really intend to take action against fan film producers (and I’m wondering why, if CBS is doing this, Horizon was contacted rather than Star Trek: Phase II or Star Trek Continues, since they’ve both been doing their own series with a number of episodes each).

It’s also possible that, while the Axanar suit is ongoing, CBS feels the court would be more likely to toss the case out if there were other ongoing production in similar situations who were not being sued. And, of course, one possibility is that since CBS is now planning a series, they may be going after all fan productions eventually.

This leads to two points, one CBS and Paramount should consider and one that producers and fans should consider.

1) As some “weighty” (to borrow a Quaker term) Trek people have mentioned, CBS and Paramount now have a win-lose situation. They could create a win-win situation if they change their attitude and started working out a licensing situation so fan productions could be officially approved. This would allow them to actually make a profit (which would lead to better productions), it would mean CBSMount would make a licensing fee off those productions (which, admittedly, in comparison to their other Trek income, would not be much), and even provide a licensing procedure that would give them some level of quality control over fan productions. In the long run, with this, everyone wins. The only people that even think they lose are those that view fan spending as a limited source and think that if fans and viewers spend a few bucks on a fan produced DVD, they won’t see the movie or watch the series. That is also a view we know is not true.

2) I think many of us felt, from the start, that Star Trek fan productions were on shaky ground. Yes, some have said they got an unofficial “wink wink nudge nudge” from CBS that it was okay as long as they didn’t make a profit. Others in the industry or with some legal knowledge (or lawyers) have said that there were no clear grounds for a suit. Remember, one doesn’t need full legal grounds to sue. If you’re as big as CBSMount, or even half that juggernaut, and you want to shut down the fan productions, go after one or two, file notices, do everything you can to force the production to hire lawyers, delay the case, keep them in limbo, and basically keep them tied in knots as long as possible. Fan productions, even Axanar, are limited in budget and if they can be forced to spend money on lawyers, that can destroy the production without ever reaching the courtroom. Maybe it’s not right, but it’s possible.

Many of us have enjoyed the fan productions and want to see them continue, but I think this is a good time to consider an alternative that excites me more than the Star Trek fan films. The fan films have proved a number of things: A) There are a number of highly talented people quite capable of creating professional quality productions, and B) They no longer have to work through or in big studios to do this because C) The internet has created many avenues for funding productions and D) Science fiction and fantasy is now much less expensive to produce due to computer and video technology can turn any teenybopper with a cell phone and a free program like Blender into a science fiction movie producer.

There is the talent, the skills, the technology, and the funding out there for a revolution in science fiction and fantasy films. We could see dozens, hundreds, of new movies and series created for us to enjoy.

Not long ago, there was a Kickstarter for “Star Wolf”. Star Wolf would have started with one movie and continued as long as funding was there. I mention this one because I first heard about it in the late 1980s and have been eager to see it done as a series ever since. It has much of what made Star Trek popular in it and is even done by two Star Trek alumni.

Another that I’ve just become aware of is “Personal Space”

So why, with all these options available, and the chance for us to help fund, start, and create a number of science fiction shows we could be enjoying for years, are we, as fans, spending most of our money on Star Trek?

What if the million dollars raised for Axanar went into Star Wolf or any other SF indie project and created a new world? What if someone created an SF universe that was a playground we could all play in, make movies about, write fan fiction for, and there wasn’t a boogeyman in the cave who could jump out and quash it all with just threats of a lawsuit?

It’s time we, as fans, start putting up the money for productions in the huge number of worlds that could be created rather than just for Star Trek. Yes, Trek is a wonderful playground, but when we can play almost the same games elsewhere, on a playground without any gang of bullies lurking and ready to shutdown the playground at any time, it’s about time we start helping all these talented and hard working people build new playgrounds we can all enjoy.  With all the possible universes, why do we insist on playing in just one?

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Facing Facebook

It’s taken me time to put my thoughts together, but I felt I needed to reply to the recent changes in Facebook and the reactions of people about it.

In short, Facebook changed their interface again, everyone complained and said how much they hated it, then within two days, everyone shut up and just kept going, as if nothing had happened. I’m handling this by changing my habits. I’m switching, as much as possible, to Google+. I’m doing all my new posting on Google+ (other than my Hal’s Haiku page on Facebook) and I’m only responding to other posts on Facebook. I plan, over time, to reduce my interaction on Facebook more and more until I don’t use it anymore.
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Online Dating Offlined (or Don’t Waste Money Paying for Online Dating)

This is something I’ve been thinking about writing about for a few years, but just never took the time to put together the numbers and write it down. Unfortunately, while I’ve reconstructed some of the numbers, I’ve lost some of the math. But if you’re really interested in checking out what I say, the numbers could be reconstructed using Google and spending some time searching.

I was on eHarmony from close to the beginning until about 2010, when I started a relationship with someone I met offline, through ballroom dancing. But from about 2009 on, I stayed on eHarmony only out of the slim chance it might work. By then I had learned something important: eHamrony is hiding important figures that show them as more of a failure than a success. A lot of online dating services are doing this.
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Is It Art?

I know I’m a bit slow on posting this, since it’s about my trip to Arts in the Park at the start of May, but I took time to think about whether it was worth posting or not. (Plus life sometimes gets in the way of a blog post!)

Every year I look forward to Arts in the Park, at Dogwood Dell and the Carillon (which is a local city park with a monument to World War I). The grounds are covered with tent after tent, each with a different artist displaying his or her work, in hopes that those of us wandering by will decide to buy something. Some artists are back year after year and, of course, every year there are new artists as well.

But even though I always enjoy the show, I find that it always challenges my ideas about individuality and creativity — and not in the way you’d think or in a good way.
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At the End of the Day

(Note: This was originally written in August, 2008.)

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.  They always have.  They always will.  Two examples spring to my mind, one real, one not.  The first is the fictional one: Remember Dead Poets Society?  He challenged the students to make their lives extraordinary.  Some did.  One kid pushed the limits and his Father pushed back and he killed himself.  One rebelled and was kicked out (or so I remember) and the meekest of the bunch was the one that finally, at the end, stood on his desk and said, “Oh, Captain, my Captain!”  But what else happened?  How many of the kids just went along with the teacher but didn’t meet the challenge to make their lives extraordinary instead of ordinary?  And how many of them just stood on their desks at the end because others were doing it?

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When TV Becomes Art

The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica

The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica

I FINALLY got to see the series finale for Battlestar Galactica.  Now before I tell you how hard it’s been to see it, a little lead up, some of which you know.  I read about the first Battlestar Galactica series way before it was ever on the air.  I found a great article about John Dykstra and how he was taking the effects skills he learned in Star Wars and was making a TV series with those abilities.  I was looking forward to the show well before it aired.  Okay, it was the late 1970s, it was cheesy, it was over done, many of the effects shots were re-used over and over, but for me, at that time — well, it was just fantastic.  There was a weekly show on the TV with space ships, people that lived on them, effects that made it look real, and stories that took me beyond the here and now.  Every week we heard the same tag line at the end, “And so, the last Battlestar, Galactica, leads a rag tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest for a shining planet called Earth.”  After an attack by the Cylons (robots made by man that rebelled), most of the 12 colonies are destroyed, so they find the fabled planet they all came from and find keys to help them find Earth.  It ran for one season only and they never found Earth.  Well, okay, they did in the really, really, really bad sequel, Galactica 1980, but that was basically an attempt to keep things going and most of us consider it “non-canon” as far as what happened.
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Stepping Out or Stepping Up?

Professional Dancers Competing

Professional Dancers Competing

I don’t know whether I was just stepping out or stepping up. I participated in my first dance competition a day or so ago. I went down to Raleigh for a small comp to do seven dances. Apparently that’s a bit unusual — doing that many dances in one’s first comp. At least that’s what some people have told me since then. I guess maybe if someone had told me that earlier, I might stuck with only two or three dances, but we had been practicing eight in comp class and if I had not gone senile with one issue with the basic steps in East Coast swing, I probably would have entered in that as well.

I still don’t know if doing seven dances for your first comp is hard or not. All I know is I did it. I figured I knew the dances so I might as well do them. It wasn’t costing me anything to try them.

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I Won’t Dance, Don’t Ask Me, I Won’t Dance, Madam, With You


West Coast Double Lunge (2)

West Coast Double Lunge (2)

I haven’t been writing much in my blog for several reasons. First is that I’m still adapting to how everything has changed since my Father died and this blog is not a personal diary. It’s not here so I can show the world my most private thoughts.

However, I’ve realized there is something that’s become a passion of mine in the past year that I have yet to write about here and it’s something I do love doing and talking about. Anyone that knows me knows I love cycling and enjoy walking and lifting weights, but that’s about the limit of any training I’ve had in movement.

And yet in August I’ll be competing in tango and a number of other ballroom dances. How did that happen?

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Music: Free as a Bird

What do you mean when you say the word, “Free?” In software, we have two meanings, one is expressed as “free as in beer” and the other is “free as in speech.” This applies to music as well. There is music you can download for free, there’s also music you have to pay to download. Often you can pay for music and get far less than you expect, even if the song is exactly what you want.

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Do You Want My Money: A Tale of Two Stores

I make my living from the results of software I’ve written. I have two LCD monitors in front of me and, when I’m working, am often logged into 3-4 computers that could be in different locations in the city or state. When I lose my Internet connection, often I have to stop working. Even if I’m on only my workstation computer, I still need the Internet for reference and other uses. Make no mistake about it: I am a true computer and network geek. On the other hand, I held out for years, avoiding Amazon and eBay. Why? I’d rather support the merchants locally. At one point I had a part time job I loved in a small retail store. I didn’t need the money, but I liked the book store, liked their attitude, and liked helping both the store and the customers. They opened a new branch store in a mall not far from me. Once I was helping two women with a lot of questions and recommending the appropriate books for each question they had. Then I said something about one being discounted. One woman said, “Oh, we wouldn’t get it here. We’d get it on Amazon.” To this day I regret that I didn’t say, “Then see if Amazon is here to help you and patiently answer all your questions in six months. If we’re gone then and you have questions, you’ll know it’s because people bought from them and not us.” I didn’t say it because I didn’t want to prejudice their view of a store I believed in and I didn’t want to hurt the reputation of the owners. Interestingly enough, within six months, that branch store was closed due to lack of sales.

So why would I, a strong supporter of local stores, come within an inch of saying to someone in a store, “That’s okay. I’ll get it on Amazon?”

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