Dungeons, Dragons, & IP Lawyers (Yes, an OGL Post)

Given many of the folks I know, there was little chance that I wasn’t going to get bombarded by statements, screeds, and opinions about the possible changes to the Open Game License (OGL) the owner of Dungeons and Dragons currently offers and many people (including some of said folks) use.

Now, there should be news as soon as tomorrow, heck, something went up as I was writing this post, but if RPGs are your jam, why not start down the rabbit hole now?


Bradbury on Starting Writing, Keeping Writing, and Love

I grew up reading Ray Bradbury stories and loved it when 13 of his short stories were adapted for radio (because, you know, I’m into that sort of thing). So, naturally, I’ve checked out some interviews and lectures where he talks about writing and his thoughts on it.

This hour-long lecture comes from when Bradbury was around 80, so it should come as no surprise if your curmudgeon detector goes off. However, other videos can give you more of a taste of that.

Here, I especially like how he tackles:

How to get started writing

His advocacy of attempting short stories before getting deep into novels mirrors other a lot of what I’ve read and heard in the filmmaking realm, where doing shorts is often vital in learning various aspects of craft. It also matches what many people say in that the quantity and mindful practice is invaluable to getting better.

How to get your brain percolating about writing

I mean, as the lecture goes on, he does keep on adding to one’s evening homework, but Bradbury isn’t the only one who advocates reading poetry (I’ve had acting teachers and dialect coaches push for the same).

And it seems like a good way to keep your brain active in any case (writer or not).

Why you’re writing in the first place

As with any creative pursuit, it should all roll back to love, which he mentions generally near the beginning and closes with very personally at the end.


Public Domain Day, 2023 Addendum

I have a new source to look for regarding Public Domain Day every January… that is assuming Steve Shives returns for more merriment next year. I’ve already enjoyed his Star Trek commentaries and now I learn how much of a classic film buff he is — and he doesn’t mind singing. Truly, he contains multitudes.

His phrasing is occasionally delightfully NSFW at moments, so be warned for when you watch.

It’s Not Just You: They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

I don’t always take stock in old men yelling at clouds when things “aren’t like they were in the old days,” but when it comes to manufacturing quality, there’s something to that sentiment.

Walter Zerna/Getty Images (from the Vox article)

Izzie Ramirez over at Vox has a great walkthrough about many of the factors that have contributed to this change in approach and the costs.

There’s also a bit at the end about the right-to-repair and how many corporations fight against that, which, among other things, perpetuates the current manufacturing paradigms. There are groups fighting for the right to repair, however, and just this week there was a significant victory on that front in the U.S.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for other articles about these sorts of trends.


But What About Sea Shanties?

It’s Monday. It’s January. And it’s been about a year since we learned TikTokkers will sing sea shanties. But let’s focus on the important question:

Did pirates sing sea shanties?

Disclosure: I’m pre-disposed to trust sources called “Rogue History” for reasons.

Thoughts on the “A.I. is Inevitable” Bandwagon

What with starting the year off with a Public Domain post, I’ll continue in the intellectual property realm with a topic currently being discussed and debated mightily amongst indie artists and writers I know: how artificial intelligence (aka “A.I.”) is starting to do creative jobs.

Author Chuck Wendig has some choice NSFW words on this matter.

(Graphic via Chuck Wendig’s blog)

I especially appreciate him tackling the fact that the existence of technology neither means its inevitability nor that it will be implemented a specific way with no societal discussion. Naturally, those who stand to profit from a particular technology and specific implementation are going to push for whatever way benefits them. He touches on this and, sadly, that recurring theme of technology implementation has a high probability of impacting a lot of independent artists, writers, and voiceover artists — the last group being the main topic of the article above.

As someone who both works as a voice actor and casts voice actors for an audio theater troupe, I can’t imagine relying on artificial voices. Theater itself is about collaboration and connection, including with an audience. Its value isn’t derived from its efficiency. And, as Wendig points out, in this economic system, making a living is a reason for creative work too, so, hey, A.I., maybe don’t steal fizzy lifting drink?

Public Domain Day, 2023

I plan to do posts on public domain every year and I really should have last January for this clip alone, but the year got away from me early.

Really gotta appreciate the Winnie the Pooh/Hemingway mash-up.

Now that was last year, and most of you already know about the Winnie the Pooh horror movie soon to be out in the world?

So what’s in store for 2023 and all the goodies from 1927 now in the public domain in the U.S.?

As always, Duke Law’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain provides a good overview of the year in question, penned by Jennifer Jenkins, the director or said center.

Over at Polygon, David Grossman notes some of the highlights that are agreed upon by most of the links here, including Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis and the last collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories.

Author Cory Doctorow has many thoughts on the Arthur Conan Doyle estate no longer having rights to Sherlock Holmes (though noting some legalistic clinging may yet occur) and his piece is a good reminder of how we all benefit from works entering the public domain.

The efforts of estates and entertainment conglomerates to hold onto intellectual property for as long as possible is also explored in an article by Aaron Moss that will likely interest many of you.

Also, it’s worth noting the the U.S. copyright law is different from other countries, but they have works that go into the public domain on January 1st as well… and the appropriately named Public Domain Review has a rundown of some of those works.

Finally, I would expect any site with a name like Book Riot to be very into Public Domain Day and Annika Barranti Klein’s article validates that expectation.

So there it is: a whole new year’s worth of goodies that may fuel your own creativity. If you do something with any of the 1927 works, leave a note about it down in the comments. We’ll see you next year when a certain 1928 cartoon is sure to be the headline for many a public domain post.


2022 Additions to the National Film Registry

Given my most recent Favorite Films list, I figured it’d be nice to highlight the National Film Registry, a project by the Library of Congress. Each year, they add titles to the registry, serving as an annual reminder of the work they do and highlighting some films that might have fallen off people’s radar.

You can read about this years inductees at the link above, from NPR and Variety, or via this fun video below:

My 50 Favorite Films, 2022 Edition

It’s that time of [even] year where I reflect on the many films I’ve seen and perform that most Internet of activities: ranking them. I mean, I’ve done an offline sort of my favorite films for about 30 years, but the past 10 year online have been right at home here on the Intertubes. You can see my previous entries here (including how I do the sort by pairwise comparison).

There were many new movies in the sort this year. Some were better than others.

This year, the total of films sorted was probably close to 600. This is, in part, due to all the films I watched in the past two years where I added new cards for the films. Many of these did not even make the first cut, but it was only fair that they go into the sort, even if they were doomed.

Just as with two years ago, there are many changes to the previous list, while many of the longstanding films remain… and there is a new #1.

Subject to the requirements of the service, of course!

Hush! What part of “Surprise is on our side” do you not get?

Anyway, here are the ground rules:

  1. These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
  2. Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
  3. TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
  4. TV mini-series are not included.
  5. Regular TV series are right out.
  6. These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an alternate version of me, possibly allied with Jobu Tupaki.
  7. There is no rule # 7.

So, without further ado, counting down from 50:

50) Arrival
49) Guardians of the Galaxy
48) The Godfather, Part II
47) A Few Good Men
46) The Court Jester
45) Casino Royale
44) Pan’s Labyrinth
43) The Princess Bride
42) Galaxy Quest
41) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
40) The Grand Budapest Hotel
39) The Milagro Beanfield War
38) Field of Dreams
37) Midnight Run
36) A Quiet Place
35) North by Northwest
34) Gattaca
33) The Truman Show
32) Everything Everywhere All at Once
31) Ran 
30) The Hunt for Red October
29) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
28) Big Fish
27) Aliens
26) Once Upon a Time in the West
25) Children of Men
24) The Count of Monte Cristo
23) The Namesake
22) Rob Roy
21) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
20) Citizen Kane
19) Singin’ in the Rain
18) The Little Prince
17) Groundhog Day
16) Casablanca
15) The Lives of Others
14) Minority Report
13) The Empire Strikes Back
12) Amélie
11) Star Wars
10) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
9) Spotlight
8) Black Hawk Down
7) 2010
6) Dune
5) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
4) Schindler’s List 
3) Raiders of the Lost Ark 
2) The Shawshank Redemption
1) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World

And, as always, here are some…

Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)

  • Total Comedies: 12
  • Total Dramas: 28
  • Total Action-Adventure Films: 27
  • Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 24
  • Total Westerns: 1
  • Total War Movies: 10
  • Total Musicals: 2
  • Total Animated Films: 1
  • Total films with Mister Liam Neeson: 2
  • Number of films dropped/Number of new films added to the Favorite 50 (compared to 2020): 12
  • Number of films new to the sort and added to the Favorite 50(!): 2
  • Mean average year of the 50 films (rounded up): 1992
  • Decade with the most favorites: 2000s (13 films), followed closely by the 1980s (11 films)
  • The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

All right, here’s some other thoughts…

Feeling a Bit Lighter… Kinda

There are ever-so-slightly less dramas and more comedies, though some of those are arguably action-comedies or comedy-dramas, which usually don’t have the same jokes-per-minute as, say, Airplane! (#69, naturally). Still, the list doesn’t feel as grim as two years ago… though perhaps I should do a list of top 10 outright comedies sometime.

There’s Something About the New

I love older films, our dad showing us “the classics” before the existence of Turner Classic Movies. However, looking over my Favorite 50 over the past 10 years, both with the average year of the 50 films and the decades with the most selections, I like a lot of films that came out in my lifetime… and new films may resonate with me stronger.

18 of the films I watched for the first time got into the top 200, including entries from this year like Prey and the newest version of All Quiet on the Western Front along with recent films I’ve finally had a chance to watch, like Crazy Rich Asians.

Oh, and speaking of the extended sort, Die Hard (#81) has retaken its place as top Christmas movie from Klaus (#89)… for now.

But back to “the new,” I think of the two films new to the sort which made it into the 50. Everything Everywhere All at Once is right up my quirky, genre-bending alley and I’ve loved the story of Dune for decades. I’ve watched it seven times since it came out, for crying out loud!

So it easily gets a good “watchability” score, but clearly there’s “resonance,” too. Resonance and watchability also explain A Quiet Place. Some readers may have noticed a number of scary, scary-adjacent, and creature features in my list of films included in this sort, thanks to one of my kids interest in the macabre. A Quiet Place stands out as a wonderfully scary film that doesn’t rely on being a splatterfest.

We’ll see how all of these rank in two years. The impetuous Hamilton, for instance, pushed its way into the Favorite 50 in its first sort two years ago and has since fallen off (though at #62, not too far). This leads me to…

Rethinking the Ranking

My brother mentioned he prefers to rank films in more fluid levels versus a strict ordinal ranking and this year’s sort made me think about that. In fact, we sort of ranked films that way growing up, something I’ll write more about next week. I mean, I can honestly say I love many of the films that, in the sort, would be ranked 100-200. Ask me next month and will they still be there? How much of an ephemeral snapshot is this? How much can I quantify the criteria of Quality + Watchability + Resonance (clearly, it’s kind of like PERT where “Resonance” gets more weight in the average. Something to think about.

So there you have it. Another biennial sort completed. Who knows what 2024 will bring? In any case, if you’re tempted to check out or revisit some films on this list, my job here is done.

The Immense Satisfaction of Ke Huy Quan’s Comback

Actor and stunt choreographer Ke Huy Quan has not been on my mind until recently.

I may not have seen Temple of Doom, where he played Short Round, this millennium. I only saw The Goonies for the first time last year (friends know I regret nothing) and Data was probably my favorite of the Bad News Oregonians. And then Everything Everywhere All at Once came out this year and was entirely up my off-kilter-but-emotionally-truthful alley. Quan was phenomenal in his multiversal roles.

And so I wanted to know “Who’s that guy again?” (seeing as he has aged a tad since the 80s) and fine I’ve enjoyed his behind-the-scenes work in many a movie since being Short Round.

And then I came across this article by Delia Kai for Vanity Fair about Ke Huy Quan coming back on Hollywood’s radar. Whether you’re a fellow Gen Xer musing about dreams deferred or a creative multi-hypenates who actually does like to act, it’s sure to strike a chord. It’s wonderful to see him getting this recognition and I hope this bodes well for a next act.

Ke Huy Quan (Pat Martin for Vanity Fair)