Sunday, April 13, 2014

TWITrek Character Insight No. 92: Lieutenant Valeris

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 continue our series on best Trek movie villains with Lieutenant Valeris from ST: The Undiscovered Country.
 
 

Valeris comes in at number 15 on the list of top Trek villains.

Valeris serves as the helm officer aboard the Enterprise-A. She is placed on the flagship because she was the first Vulcan to graduate at the top of her Academy class, thanks in large part to mentorship from Spock. However, his trust in her ends up being misplaced as she conspires with higher ups to sabotage peace talks with the Klingon Empire.

In furthering this conspiracy, Valeris gets the Klingon delegation drunk at a formal dinner, then has two compatriots murder Klingon Chancellor Gorkon in a zero gravity situation, leading to awesome floating purple blood special effects. She then kills those other crewmen to try and cover her tracks, although she is outfoxed by Captain Kirk in the end.



In a mind meld, she gives up all the names of the co-conspirators as well as reveals a plot to assassinate the Federation President. Captain Kirk and Captain Sulu of the Excelsior save the day by stopping the further assassination to save the Khitmoer Accords peace treaty.


(Quote of the Week)

Kirk: "Names, Lieutenant!"
Valeris: "I do not remember."
Spock: "A lie?"
Valeris: "A choice."

She wears a mismatched uniform with a red collar indicating cadet, the insignia of a lietenant commander, and a gray wristband and patch indicating sciences division because no new uniforms were being made for this cast and actress Kim Cattrall had to wear whatever would fit. This role was initially to be a recurrence of the Saavik character, but Kirstie Alley would not come back and the writers worried about making this beloved character a traitor. Good move, in my opinion.

She's the weakest villain in a movie with at least three of them, and that puts her near the bottom of this list. But we did at least learn that non-consensual double-handed mind melds can be apparently very violating and painful!

I give this villain 2 out of 5 stars.

Kim Cattrall played Valeris, and she is best known for her role in Sex and The City. She designed her iconic looking headband and also her name, which stems from Eris, the Greek goddess of strife.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Legal Geek No. 9 - Will Apple Make Texting While Driving Legal Again?

This is the latest installment in what is intended to be 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! The topic this week is whether a new Apple patent application is the first step in making texting while driving legal again in most jurisdictions.


(Courtesy USPTO.gov)

One of the more interesting recent Apple-owned patent applications (U.S. Application No. 13/627,959 - Publication No. 2014/0085334) published this week at the US Patent Office. The invention is entitled Transparent Texting, the idea basically boiling down to using the rear-facing camera to stream through an image of what is in front of the user as a background to texting. Thus, someone walking and texting, or even hypothetically, driving and texting, can continue to see in front of them while focusing on the phone screen.

Leaving aside whether Apple will actually be able to secure a patent on this idea (and that is a highly gray area), this application could have far-reaching legal consequences if Apple executes this invention in new phone designs.

For example, if the problem with distracted driving is lost focus on the road, this application could solve that problem by keeping the focus on the message bubbles and the underlying background of the road. While some of the claims are to a mobile device like a phone, the method claims are broader and could encompass phones or displays that are an integral part of the car.  Imagine if text bubbles could show up on your windshield as the windshield brings you a high definition look of what cameras outside the car see? Would it still be distracted driving?

Unfortunately, the only way to know is if local lawmakers allow people to try out such freedoms. At least until car safety technology moves beyond automatic emergency brakes to more automated vehicle controls, it is unlikely that this, or a Google glass, or anything of the ilk will make texting while driving legal.

Bottom line: if you need to text, just pull over. Someday technology will help us overcome human focus problems, but until then, patents like this are just mere convenience for pedestrians.

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

Sunday, April 6, 2014

TWITrek Character Insight No. 91: Admiral Dougherty

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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For record, episode 90 was written and produced by Ken P., as we did an April Fool's switch of segments for the show. He did a great take on Commander Kruge from The Search For Spock, who ranked 18th in our poll for Star Trek villains. Check out the audio in the show feed (a script here wouldn't do it justice, as it was a great job!)
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Welcome back to Character Insight!  This week, we begin our series on best Trek movie villains with Admiral Matthew Dougherty from Star Trek Insurrection. (Insert film theme)
 
 

Dougherty comes in at number 16 on the list of top Trek villains.

(Nero, who was profiled a few months ago, came in at No. 17 and Commander Kruge came in at No. 18, which Ken P. did last week. But let's get to the subject at hand, the badmiral).

Like most Trek movie villains, Admiral Dougherty only appears in the movie he stars in. Dougherty had secured approval from the Federation council to collect all the metaphasic particles from the rings of a planet in an area of space called the Briar Patch. These metaphasic particles have rejuvenating qualities, and of course the Council is all about finding the fountain of youth, proverbially speaking.

However, the vice admiral left out one important detail when briefing the Federation Council on this action, and that was the need to relocate a peaceful race called the Ba'Ku from this planet since the collection of the metaphasic particles would render the planet uninhabitable. Although the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few may apply as a Vulcan axiom, the political fallout from such a forced relocation would not have been tolerated if the Council was fully informed.

(Quote of the Week)


ADMIRAL MATTHEW DOUGHERTY
I'm acting on orders from the Federation Council.
JEAN-LUC PICARD
How can there be an order to abandon the Prime Directive?
ADMIRAL MATTHEW DOUGHERTY
The Prime Directive doesn't apply. These people are not indigenous to this planet. They were never meant to be immortal. We'll simply be restoring them to their natural evolution.
JEAN-LUC PICARD
Who the hell are we to determine the next course of evolution for these people?


Thus, Dougherty has to turn to an alliance with some bad actors the Son'a, who just happened to be Ba'Ku that were previously exiled from this paradise planet. But of course Badmiral Dougherty was too blind to see the obvious, plotting for personal power and gain rather than doing things the right way. Thankfully Captian Picard and his crew figure out the deception and stop the Son'a, but not before their leader gives the Admiral the most vicious face-stretch ever. (Insert death noise).

ADMIRAL MATTHEW DOUGHERTY
If you launch the injector while the planet's still populated, the Federation will pursue you until--
ADHAR RU'AFO
The Federation... will never know what happened here.



Here's to you Admiral Dougherty. Your mediocre small role in a plot better suited for a television episode than a movie may not be memorable, but you do continue the trope of the bad Admiral. And that death by face lift was pretty cool as well. I give this villain 2 stars out of 5, as I share the view of the audience that this is a bottom-feeder in the chase for most evil and devious.

Anthony Zerbe played Dougherty, and he also played the villain in the James Bond flick License to Kill. He most recently appeared as a senator in American Hustle, his first acting role in over six years.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Legal Geek No. 8: Can College Athletes Unionize?

This is the latest installment in what is intended to be 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.

Welcome back to Legal Geek! The topic this week is whether college athletes will succeed in bids to unionize, and the implications of such an action.


(Courtesy nusports.com)

Although the sports world and the nerd world typically share a small window of shared fandom, there are a select few of us who enjoy both worlds. And when a top-flight school like Northwestern rocks the college football world by having the football team petition to unionize as employees of the university, more than just sports fans should pay attention to this fascinating legal case.

When Northwestern college football players asked the National Labor Relations Board to recognize the team as a union, most legal pundits thought the petition would be denied. However, the smart kids and legal counsel won the day this week when the NLRB ruled that the football players are actually employees and can unionize to collectively bargain for benefits, including long-term worker's compensation coverage and perhaps even payment.

While Northwestern University will certainly appeal and fight this, the ruling appears to be sound in reasoning and will be different to overturn. This is yet another chink in the armor for college athletics, where department heads get rich while athletes struggle to make ends meet. A major conference football team brings in millions in revenue but sees only a miniscule percentage of that in scholarships and stipends. A shining example of this hypocrisy hit the news this week when Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith received an $18K bonus for an individual OSU wrestler winning a national championship. Needless to say, the wrestler will see none of that money.

Although public universities are held to state law standards unlike private schools like Northwestern, this NLRB ruling could be the first big step in ensuring that these athletes get better benefits and a bigger piece of the money pie they create. That's a better situation for all involved, as it may encourage players to stay in college athletics longer, thereby improving college sports and also the level of incoming professional athletes as well.

However, it will also dramatically change collegiate athletics, as the bigger sports like football and basketball may be subject to much different rules like a semi-pro league rather than other sports. Thanks to equality laws and regulations like Title IX, this could be a pandora's box for the NCAA. To put it bluntly, this March Madness may just be the beginning.

Bottom line: College athletics is about to undergo a fascinating sea change, as players bargain for more benefits and perhaps even royalty rights from their likenesses in other ongoing legal battles. For sports geeks, this could fundamentally change the sports we love in ways hard to comprehend now.

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

Monday, March 24, 2014

TWITrek Character Insight No. 89: Galloway

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 profile Galloway, the first true redshirt from TOS to be profiled on this segment.
 
 

Although we profiled a time agent who was able to warp time and space to escape death last week, Galloway has stronger resurrection powers apparently. He is one of a handful of characters who dies and then reappears later without explanation. But then again, as a redshirt, he's probably just destined to die once again on an away mission.

Galloway serves as a Lieutenant assigned to the operations division as a security officer on board the Enterprise. In addition to guarding the leadership of the crew on away missions, he frequently appears in the transporter room to operate the transporter. At least in those episodes he's not subject to the usual abuse a redshirt takes. That also helps him survive longer than most other redshirts who appear on the show and regularly go on away missions.

That abuse includes contracting a viral infection that drives the crew crazy on one mission, being absorbed into the body of an alien, and eventual death on Omega IV from another captain. Apparently vaporization by phaser beam is not permanent, though, as he appears again in two more episodes after passing away in The Omega Glory episode.

In one of these episodes, he was credited as a different character Johnson, but he clearly plays Galloway in Turnabout Intruder. In fact, he receives more speaking lines in that latter episode than he did before his death. Our quote of the week comes from this episode:
Galloway: "You're asking me to violate the captain's orders."
Spock: "He is not the captain."
Galloway: "You're as mad as she is. You're to leave here at once. I follow orders."
Spock: "Certainly, Lieutenant. We all must do our duty."
The James Blish adaptations explain away the death and resurrection issue by having a different redshirt get vaporized, but this is a fun oversight for watchers of the entire series to catch and chuckle at. After all, there's only so many extras around for a 1960's television show.

David L. Ross played Lieutenant Galloway. He only has six credits as an actor, but he does appear in a memorable role as a reporter in Rocky II in 1979. He has since enjoyed married life outside Hollywood over the past three decades while raising four children.

Speaking of movies, don't forget to help vote for the upcoming list of best Trek movie villains over at strawpoll.me/1175936. You can help craft Character Insight!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Legal Geek No. 7: Actor Copyrights and How Appeals Courts Work

This is the latest installment in what is intended to be 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.

Welcome back to Legal Geek! The topic this week updates a recent story on actor's copyrights to help answer a listener question on how appeals work.

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(Courtesy Google.com and ca9.uscourts.gov)

A listener Robert has asked for a brief overview of how appeals work, likely relative to the ongoing court battle over the Innocence of Muslims movie trailer discussed on a previous segment.

As a reminder, Judge Kozinski and a three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that actors have some sort of limited copyright in their performance in a film. This extension of traditional copyright allowed the court to order Youtube and Google to take down the controversial movie trailer.

Since the ruling, the U.S. Copyright Office has denied registration to the very copyright that the Ninth Circuit panel based this opinion upon. As a result, Google immediately petitioned for a rehearing of the takedown order in front of a larger panel of Ninth Circuit judges called an en banc hearing. That request has been denied, but Google still has options.

Federal lawsuits generally begin in District Courts, which are 94 local/regional courts across the country with at least one in each state. Appeals from District Court decisions go to one of the 12 regional Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Ninth Circuit covers many of the westernmost states, for example. Three judge panels are typically used, but these decisions can be overturned by the en banc rehearings mentioned previously or by the Supreme Court. 

Thus, to keep it simple, Google and Youtube will continue to fight this legal battle in the Ninth Circuit until all options are exhausted, and then if still unsuccessful, a petition for a Supreme Court hearing will happen. The Supreme Court typically only gets involved in important questions about Constitutional law, and the proper scope of copyright would be a good issue in view of the different opinions of the executive branch at the Copyright Office and the judicial branch at the Ninth Circuit.


Bottom line: The news is bad for Google this week, and Innocence of Muslims will get taken down based on a questionably-reasoned decision. But this critical copyright fight is not over until the Supreme Court says it is over.

Thanks again to Robert for the question.

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

TWITrek Character Insight No. 88: Daniels

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 profile Daniels, the recurring character from Enterprise.
 
 

Daniels is a temporal agent who travels through time frequently to achieve missions related to the Temporal Cold War. Although the parts of the Cold War that viewers can see are limited thanks to seeing things from Archer's perspective, the storylines involving Daniels reveals that time is a tapestry in which many different threads come together (and can be torn asunder when desired by bad actors). Daniels is one of only four recurring characters to appear in all four seasons of Enterprise.


Daniels appears as a regular crewman initially, as he infiltrates the crew to prepare for the appearance of Silik, the antagonist leader of the Suliban Cabal. His first three episodes focus on this ongoing battle through time with Silik, highlighted by being stuck in the 31st Century with Captain Archer. However, they escape with some engineering ingenuity and some 22nd Century technology.

Once the Xindi become a regular threat, Daniels appears on multiple occasions to try and convince Archer that he should not commit suicide to stop the Xindi. Daniels explains that Archer is critical to the formation of the Federation, and the Federation is what stops the Sphere Builders, a race that bribes the Xindi to destroy Earth before the Federation is formed.  If this sounds familiar, it is because this is just like how the Borg tried to travel in time to stop Earth from making First Contact.


Of course, then Enterprise totally jumps the temporal shark and pits Archer's crew against some aliens aligned with the Nazis. Yes, the Nazis again...it's a wonder Lincoln didn't get shot too.

Although the stories related to the Cold War can be hard to follow, Daniels is a fun conduit to show that time is yet another dimension to conquer and control. His character has helped spawn a series of books called Department of Temporal Investigations, for those who enjoy this time travel stuff.

The Quote of the Week is from "Azati Prime"
Temporal Agent Daniels: If you destroy their weapon, they will only build another. You are the only one who can convince them of what I have told you. It is crucial to history that you do not sacrifice yourself.
Captain Jonathan Archer: My concern is with preventing the deaths of billions of people. If that's a problem for history, then history will have to suffer!

Matt Winston played Daniels, and he has appeared in great movies like Fight Club, AI, and Little Miss Sunshine.

Speaking of movies, don't forget to help vote for the upcoming list of best Trek movie villains over at strawpoll.me/1175936. You can help craft Character Insight!