Monday, March 30, 2015

Character Insight No. 138: John Farrell

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.
 --------------------   


Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile a recurring bridge crewman from early episodes of TOS, Lieutenant John Farrell.
 
 

John Farrell.jpg 
(This guy has a face made for radio, or communications in this case, courtesy memory-alpha.org)

Farrell serves as a command track bridge officer and therefore is seen as one of many communications officers on the show as well as one of an even bigger list of navigation officers to appear on the Enterprise. His first appearance was one of his most notable, as he is manipulated by Mudd's women into supplying her with a communicator and the frequency to contact miners which he wanted to defraud with the women. He just can't avoid the wiles and charm of these women, much like many other crew members. This is the only time his first name Johnny is mentioned as well. 

Farrell also appears as a confused bridge officer when Captain Kirk is duplicated and both copies show up on the bridge to struggle for command in the episode The Enemy Within. His poise as a bridge officer showed much better in Miri, where he led the communications with a stranded landing party needing help in finding a cure to an ancient disease. 

This character was also written into several other episodes, but his scenes never made the cut. for example, his character was replaced in the final scripts that were shot for The Naked Time and Charlie X. However, apparently his character was not compelling enough to keep around past the first season, even though it is never addressed if he is reassigned or killed/missing in action.

Farrell does appear in a small number of novels as well, including My Brother's Keeper: Constitution, and the novelizations of several episodes including those he did not actually appear in on screen. According to the books and comics, he goes on to become an instructor at Starfleet Academy. Apparently command didn't work out, because those who can't do, teach.

Farrell was played by James Goodwin, who enjoyed a 30 year acting career with mostly one-off bit appearances in many television series as well as TV movies. his three appearances on Star Trek tie his most appearances on any one show. These shows include Little House on the Prairie, Chips, and Perry Mason.

 ------------  

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Legal Geek No. 39: GenCon goes political to take on Indiana Lawmakers (Updated)

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.

NOTE - Current Geek on March 27 was canceled, so some edits are included below for re-recording the following week. My apologies for readability! 
------------

Welcome back to Legal Geek. This week, we take a look at how GenCon taking a political stand last week could significantly change the future of the country's largest gaming convention.


Gen Con logo.svg 
("The iconic GenCon, a haven for all gamers for decades" - courtesy gencon.com)

GenCon has been a summer convention staple in Indianapolis since 2003, when it moved from Milwaukee after outgrowing all available convention spaces in Wisconsin
.  The relationship has been very good for Indianapolis, which holds a lot of conventions and major sporting events but none so big as GenCon.  Indianapolis has been estimated to receive over $50 Million in revenue annually from attendees of this four day convention.  Indeed, Indianapolis expanded the convention center a few years ago at a cost of $275 Million primarily to accommodate the crowds of GenCon, but also to lure some other big conventions such as the NRA convention in future years.


But last week, the future of GenCon in Indy became foggy as GenCon's CEO sent an open letter to Indiana governor Mike Pence demanding his veto of religious freedom legislation passed by the Indiana legislature a week ago.  The letter was also circulated on social media sites.  Quoting from the letter, GenCon writes:

"Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds. We are happy to provide an environment that welcomes all, and the wide-ranging diversity of our attendees has become a key element to the success and growth of our convention. Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state's economy"

Clearly, GenCon is drawing a line in the sand and threatening to leave Indianapolis over the legislation.


The legislation itself is Indiana Senate Bill 101, which would prevent state and local governments from "substantially burdening" a person's exercise of religion unless the government can prove it has a compelling interest and is doing so in the least restrictive means.  Proponents of the law note that this is in compliance with the 22-year old federal religious freedom laws.  Opponents of the law deem this a potential loophole license for all private companies to discriminate, particularly against gays and lesbians.

Pence signed the bill into law despite the protests from GenCon, making a statement indicating that he does not believe this law authorizes discrimination in any way. However, the opposing economic and political pressure from GenCon, other companies like engine maker Cummins, and the mayor of Indianapolis have apparently been enough to collectively make Pence consider revising or repealing the law to avoid the potential discrimination effect. GenCon released a further letter this week indicating that the governor has reached out to begin figuring out whether an amendment to the bill or enforcement of a current city rule prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation will be enough to avoid having the religious freedom act twisted against its intended purpose.

USA Today reports that 19 other states have similar laws in effect already.  Thus, even if GenCon's threat to move is serious, it's unclear what, if any good alternative options are available for GenCon to move to. Should the convention move to a city and state with smaller convention center space, that would likely lead to caps on attendees and ridiculous overcrowding problems.  Furthermore, the best alternatives may already have generally competing conventions like San Diego with Comic Con and Atlanta with Dragoncon. If Indiana is bad news for GenCon, the alternatives could be much less preferable. Who knows, if GenCon stays on the same week as Nerdtacular, maybe they could move it to Salt Lake City to appease those few of us who go to both!
 
Bottom line - GenCon going political to protect all of its diverse gamer attendees is a bold move that should be appreciated by nerd world, but the move could lead to an undesirable relocation that would negatively impact the very gamers who love to attend this convention annually.  Even with that relocation risk seeming to be less this week, it would still pose some interesting questions for one of the biggest conventions in America.


For more on this from a sports-related slant instead of geek-related, check out my longer article on BigTenOT.com about the subject.
----------------------------------
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

Monday, March 23, 2015

Character Insight No. 137: Admiral Cartwright

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.
 --------------------   


Welcome back to Character Insight! Having recovered from the epic hangover caused by hanging with all those Irish in the pub of Fair Haven last week, we now go back to the movies to profile Admiral Cartwright, from The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country.
 
 
Cartwright, 2293.jpg
 (Yet another "Badmiral", what a shock, courtesy memory-alpha.org)  


Cartwright first appears as Starfleet Command's escort to the Federation President as Earth suffers from the attack of the whale probe on Earth. Cartwright helps explain the crisis to Admiral Kirk on the stolen Bird-of-Prey from The Search for Spock, allowing Kirk and the Enterprise crew to attempt the time travel mission to save the whales. So in a rare twist of fate, this Admiral doesn't start out as a complete jerk.

Apparently that mission broke Admiral Cartwright, however, or he just couldn't help himself from becoming the stereotypical Badmiral. Thus, when we see him two movies later at a security briefing on the weakening of the Klingon Empire at the beginning of The Undiscovered Country, he strongly advocates for an attack on the Empire to bring the Klingons to their knees rather than opening the door of peace between these factions. When Kirk agrees with Cartwright, the pieces are put in motion of a conspiracy to murder the Klingon Chancellor and Federation President to avert the peace effort once and for all.

To this end, Cartwright works with others like Valeris and General Chang to frame Kirk and Dr. McCoy after Chancellor Gorkon is killed. But of course, even with Kirk and McCoy sentenced to life in prison on work prison planet Rura Penthe, Cartwright and his cronies still couldn't avoid getting caught thanks to the efforts of Captain Spock and Captain Sulu on their respective ships to sniff out the conspiracy and save Kirk in time to prevent the Federation President's assassination.

Quote
Admiral Cartwright: Arrest those men!
Captain Spock: Arrest yourself! 


It's a pretty quick and shocking change from the President's right hand man in one movie to plotting his assassination two movies later, but that's the character arc the writers provided. Considering the script also originally called for Saavik to be a co-conspirator, perhaps this quick turnaround was supposed to shock us into taking deep thoughts about how deep convictions and beliefs can lead people to unbelievable behaviors and actions. It's an interesting allegory you also see in everything from real life to current shows like The Walking Dead.  

Cartwright was played by Brock Peters, who also played Joseph Sisko in Deep Space Nine. He had a long acting career highlighted by roles in To Kill A Mockingbird and Soylent Green.

 ------------  

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

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Legal Geek No. 38: Good and Bad Developments for Privacy Law

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.
------------

Welcome back to Legal Geek. This week, we take a look at two recent innovations about to affect everyday life and how differences between them are critical according to privacy law experts.


 
("Visa is responsible with privacy concerns, hooray!")

Starting next month, Visa will commercially release location-tracking software to many banks, meaning your local bank and credit card companies will offer a location tracking identity safety feature on smartphone apps. This innovation will automatically notify Visa when you travel more than 50 miles from home, helping to avoid flagging non-local transactions as fraudulent when it really is you. As someone who has had a card declined in this manner when trying to buy Bacardi rum in Puerto Rico directly from the distillery, trust me when I say this innovation could avoid some embarrassing situations
.


Normally having any private corporation such as a bank track your movements sounds like a real infringement of a consumer's privacy rights, but for frequent travelers, this may properly balance lowering risk of identity theft with a minor increase in information given to a corporation about you. Privacy experts applaud this innovation because the bank apps will need customers to opt-in to use this location tracking, and the opt-in can be deactivated at any time.  That means the consumer fully controls when it is needed for the bank to know travel is occurring.

Also becoming more widespread next month will be the use of Google's newly developed ReCAPTCHA login authentication functionality on many third party websites. Instead of standard CAPCTHA which tries to screen out bots by forcing typing of distorted text, the ReCAPTCHA analyzes behavioral cues such as typing cadence, where clicks occur, etc., to determine if you are a human. But this authentication process collects a significant amount of information that could actually identify who the human user is, not just that the user is human. That adds to the substantial profile Google maintains on computer users already, and expands it to many third party site activities as well.


Much like the original CAPTCHA, there is no real opt-in for users of these websites, the new regime just must be accepted. That, plus the lack of much control over what Google can do with this collected information, renders this innovation as one which privacy law experts condemn as possibly a step too far.

Bottom line - when it comes to new innovations which make life more convenient and efficient, sometimes it is better to accept a bit less personal privacy to obtain these benefits. But the ability of consumers to actually control what is shared and when is vital to long-term trust of these companies collecting the information, and companies need to remember that. Privacy law experts certainly will.
----------------------------------
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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Character Insight No. 136: Fair Haven (St. Patrick's Day)

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.
 --------------------   


Welcome back to Character Insight! It's St. Patrick's Day, and since we've already done a couple of segments on Miles O'Brien, we will celebrate instead by looking at the most Irish holodeck destination shown in Star Trek, a little town called Fair Haven from Voyager, as well as a couple notable characters in the town.
 
 
 Fair Haven train station

 (Fair Haven, the Irish holodeck town, courtesy memory-alpha.org)  

 Fair Haven is one of the many programs that Tom Paris makes during the Voyager's journey in the Delta Quadrant. The crew decides to spend extra time in this coastal Irish holodeck town to pass time while riding out a neutronic wave storm in the episode Fair Haven.

Thus, we are introduced to several interesting Irish characters about town. One of these is bartender Michael Sullivan at The Ox and The Lamb, who ends up attracting the affections of Janeway. Indeed, Katie O'Clare, as she's known in this program, goes so far as to reprogram him to be more desirable as a companion!

Quotes from Fair Haven
"Katie O'Clare, this is my wife, Francis...pleased to meet you"
"Oh, one more thing... access his interpersonal subroutines; familial characters... Delete the wife."
Quote from Spirit Things
"I've got a boyfriend who malfunctions."

In the first episode, Michael initially becomes angry about not seeming to win over O'Clare when Janeway retreats to the real world following kissing him and falling for him hard. However, she returns to spend significant time with him a few weeks later when the crew returns to the program in the episode Spirit Things. This relationship becomes vital when the crew needs saved from another Irish hologram named Seamus, who thinks Tom Paris and the Doctor are performing witchcraft and then tries to burn them at the stake.

Quote from Spirit Things
"If you can get a spirit to reveal his true name, you'll render yourself impervious to his charms!"

But thankfully, Michael convinces the others to let the Voyager crew go based on further information and discussions with Janeway. So the day is saved from another holodeck malfunction. At least this one is Irish, and therefore entertaining.

When not trying to burn spirits at the stake, Seamus is seen begging for beer money on many occasions as well as hitting on certain crew members you may know.

Quote from Fair Haven
"Saints preserve us."
"I possess superior hand-eye coordination."
"That's not all that's superior. The lily and the rose are staging a competition on your face."
"Clarify!"
"The fullness of your lips and the paleness of your cheeks - it's enough to make a man faint."
"Then, in that case, perhaps we should sit down."

Fair Haven provides a good Irish getaway with many romantic and personal relationship possibilities for the stranded crew. Even though it was a centerpiece of two dumb holodeck malfunction episodes, this was a nice change of pace and setting for this particular crew.

Seamus was played by Richard Riehle, who can also be seen in Office Space showing off the Jump to Conclusions mat. Michael Sullivan was played by Fintan McKeown, who also appeared in Game of Thrones as Amory Lorch.

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

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Character Insight No. 135: Data Clones (Soong androids)

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.
 -------------------- 
 
Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we review the various Soong-type androids similar to Data shown in TNG.
 
 
  Lal female.jpg
 (Data's daughter Lal, courtesy memory-alpha.org) 
 
Data encounters or creates several Soong-type androids during his time on Enterprise, and they all have something to teach Data and the viewer about his own development as a life form. 

In order to recreate the work of his father and experience procreation, Data creates a daughter Lal in the episode The Offsping. Lal was able to improve on Data's own specifications, both in calculation power and in the ability to feel emotions, but this led to a cascade failure that terminated her neural net. This would foreshadow Data's own similar problems with adjusting to the emotion chip in the movies.

Lal quote
Lt. Cmdr. Data: What do you feel, Lal?
Lal: ...I love you, Father.
Lt. Cmdr. Data: [after a pause] I wish I could feel it with you.
Lal: I will feel it for both of us. Thank you for my life.
We also see previous models that did not work as well as Data. In the case of Lore, who was made right before Data, Dr. Soong failed to have a positronic brain that could handle and control emotions, therefore leading to a malevolent superiority complex in Lore. Lore has intense jealousy of Data, and he tries everything to try and kill him. Lore teaches Data the delicate balance between achieving emotions and losing control.

Lore quote from Brothers
 Lore: You'd be surprised, Data. Feelings do funny things. You may even learn to... understand your "evil" brother. To forgive him.  
An even earlier android model called B-4 was discovered during the Star Trek Nemesis movie. His brain and programming is very rudimentary, and Data and La Forge must work with him just to bring him up to speed to potentially be helpful. We are left not knowing how B-4 turns out, although the implication is that he could eventually replace Data, who perished in this movie.
B4 Quote from Star Trek Nemesis
Data: B-4, do you know where you are?
B-4: I am in a room... with lights.
B-4: [observing Riker] Why does the tall man have a furry face? 

Finally, we also see Juliana Tainer, an android replica of Data's mother who was created by Dr. Soong when the real Juliana was about to die. Juliana is unaware that she is an android and is programmed to self-destruct her positronic matrix if she ever finds out, giving her a natural death. Data bonds with her and discovers his affinity for music and art comes from her, valuable assets on the road to becoming more human-like.
Juliana Quote from Inheritance Dr. Juliana Tainer: And considering that giving you a creative aspect was my idea. Oh, your father didn't really see the point. He thought that since you didn't have emotions, there would be no real need for you to express yourself. Somehow, I had the feeling the opposite would be true.
Lt. Commander Data: I do not know for certain. But I believe it is during my creative endeavors that I come closest to experiencing what it must be like to be human.
Dr. Juliana Tainer: Well... I'm glad I insisted.

 

Each of these characters teaches us vital aspects of Data to help develop his character, building what may have been the most interesting character other than Spock in Star Trek history.
------------
Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Legal Geek No. 37: Fan Art or IP Infringement?

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.
------------

Welcome back to Legal Geek. This week, based on a listener request from Joseph, we take a look at a question regarding selling fan art and fan made items including famous logos or characters.


Custom pattern. I did this without a saw. 
("Batman stained glass...oh yeah!")

Joseph asked a question we see a lot during our summer gaming and comic convention series, that being whether booths that sell fan-made items like stained glass windows, leather flasks, and other items with superhero or video game logos are subject to IP infringement, and if so, how do they consistently get away with this?

Here's the deal for such sellers: it's definitely copyright and/or trademark infringement, and they run the risk of receiving a nasty Cease and Desist letter, if not a lawsuit, when they sell items using trademarked or copyrighted logos without permission. However, most of these small time hobby businesses stay below the radar because (a) it's too expensive for companies to go after every potential infringer, and (b) in many cases, the sales actually help the market for the genuine goods, not hamper it. That leads to a laissez faire attitude for many companies relative to these infringements.


Obviously some companies like Blizzard Entertainment are more "scorched earth" approach than others, going after more potential infringers.  But every company has a limit as to how much they can pursue infringement issues.  And that is precisely why these sellers at your local comic and gaming conventions get away with what is really blatant IP infringement.

The risk these companies run is large. Should they lose an infringement lawsuit, any of the following remedies could apply: injunction to stop the activity, handing over of any profits made, and potentially further money damages. Especially in copyright, some damages can be set by statue to some ridiculously significant value between $750 and $30,000 per infringement! If you remember the record companies going after Napster users and the ridiculous fines/settlements paid, that's statutory damages coming into play. That can make this market a small reward high risk endeavor.

Bottom line - if these companies remain what is truly a small business concern, they likely stay under the radar and probably have a low actual risk of these bad legal things happening. But they are undoubtedly committing infringement, which opens up the possibility of lawsuits. At the end of the day, it's a business decision, with associated risks and rewards like all business decisions.

 Thanks again to Joseph for the question!


----------------------------------
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