Saturday, March 26, 2016

ALL THE SPOILERS discussion of BvS


Setting up Clark and Bruce as Zeus and Pluto was brilliant. I hand never thought about this, but Pluto is a deity with complex history. But through confusion (Pluton/Plutos) he ends up being the god of the underworld and the god of wealth. Which, damned if that isn't a great way to set up Bruce Wayne. The opening dream secquence basically set s this up. Then you get Alfred as a Haephestus type character, confined to the underworld but forging the tools of the gods. Even the new entrance to the Batcave is evocative of crossing the Styx.

Then, and I didn't even notice it the first time through. Bruce is chasing Diana out of the party at Lex's and he gets cut off by a guy pushing a cake shaped like the Parthenon... He literally gets blocked by "Athena" twice. This after Lex gives his rambling speech about Prometheus and the power of knowledge being implicit... But we are introduced to Lex wearing a T-Shirt showing a monkey with a detonator, certainly a commentary on Prometheus as a character.

I have had this conversation with a friend a few times... The Avengers are a paramilitary organization. The Justice League is Mt Olympus. I have never seen It set up quite so blatantly.

The new Batcave also reminds of of Nu, the watery Egyptian underworld.. leaving Bruce with an interesting relationship to Kek, the god of Darkness, vs Clark's sun-god Ra. Something that gets reified when Clark takes Doomsday up to the sky, vs Bruce striking from the shadows, or hiding behind the rocks.

The second thing that was brilliant was Bruce as King Arthur. In the first few minutes you see the death of the Waynes.... again. The only thing that wasn't either something we have seen before, or right out of the comics was that the movie changed. It has always been a Zorro movie they went to go see. Which makes sense, because that inspires Bruce to put on the black mask and go all avenging angel on the world. They changed it to "Excalibur" which (a) maps really well to the time-line of 1981, and (b) sets up a ton of stuff through of the movie: The Battle of Metropoilis bits show Bruce wandering through the ash like the myst of Avalon. Bruce literally pulls the magic sword from the stone. Lois becomes the Lady of the Lake. Then you have Clark as Lancelot dieing to restore order to the land and inspire the crusade as Clark gathers the Knights.

Then you have the other part of this: the Messiah/Spear of Destiny. The fake sword of Alexander (!) had a silver sheath on it like the "fake" spear of destiny in Vienna, where the "real" one is in the Vatican under a statue, which is kind of how the spear ended up under the statues in the movie. The hamfisted Jesus references from Man of Steel are replaced with a bit of Jesus, a bit of Moses (who the original Superman was based on), a bit of Mithras. A bit of al-Mahdi.


Damn if was finally great to see a Lex worthy of the name. I know lots of people didn't like Eisenberg. I though he was OK right up until that last scene. But seeing Lex (a) spend 2 years orchestrating a plot and feeding The Detective a mystery knowing he was chasing him, then (b) culminate it in a Win-Win scenario (Bruce kills Clark, win for Lex. Clark kills Bruce win for Lex). As much as I love Kevin Spacey, at least it wasn't a "Let's destroy the world to run a real estate scam."

But mostly, I loved the way this story was set up. Bruce, after Clark says "Martha" has a moment like Sam Jackson does in, one of my favorite movies, "Jackie Brown", which a lot of the thriller aspect of the movie seems copied from (not in a bad way). Affleck does a laudable job in a silent scene where you see him get past his pain and figure out that Lex has been fucking with him the whole time.

If the script has a problem, frankly it is that nobody ever stops and spells out what the hell has gone on. From Lex intercepting Scoot McNairy's checks, the polaroids, trickling info to Bruce about the metahumans and kryptonite. I get the feeling from a lot of people that they just never "got" it. And a lot of the reviews I have seen bagging on the movie seem to get large parts of the plot simply wrong.


It seems like a lot of things got moved around. I am not sure what the shooting script looked like, but one thing that makes my skin itch is the bit with Diana at the end. So Lex sets a timer for 1 hour. Has a 10 minute conversation and we cut to the docks where the timer says 35 minutes. Whatevs. But during this hour, Diana arrives at her hotel, goes to her room, presumably takes a shower, because then we see here checking her email in a bath robe, changes, packs up an leaves, gets to the airport goes through security and boards a flight.... in an hour. It was pretty obvious the hotel scene was supposed to be earlier in the movie but got moved to break up the two big action set pieces.

Through the middle of the movie, too, there is a lot of... movement... that doesn't seem set up. Lois arrives at the planet, but never leaves for there.Superman never sets off for Canada, and never leaves. Roger Ebert used to make jokes about "You can tell a porn movie by the amount of the plot driven by people walking into or out of a door, or getting into or out of a car." Strangely, this movie could have used a LOT more of that. I suspect a lot of stuff got cut for time.


I have said for ages, if I was writing Man of Steel, I might have done the first 2/3rds of the movie from Lois's perspective, and made Clark more like the Cloverfield monster. Lois basically has 3 scenes in this movie where she isn't just a weepy mate or a damsel in distress, and they are good scenes. But seriously, it is a short story. She puts the Lex thing together before Bruce, but still can't seem to do anything with it until she rushes to Clark's side.

Was there more to that story? I would love to see it.

Dream sequences

I thought the were great, but the non-nerds I saw the move with thought they were cheesy. More than that, though, it wasn't quite so clear that the Knightmare sequence *wasn't* a dream. You see papers flying in the cave when Bruce "wakes up" which should be the cue to let you know it wasn't a dream, but it was really subtle. And more importantly lots of people (my friend Jeanette I saw it with tonight) don't even know that time travel is part of "The Flash" thing. The whole deal was completely lost on her.

Comic stuff

The, as my friends have described it, YouTube scene was (aside from breaking the timeline of the movie as I mentioned before) really tacked on, and if you aren't a comic book nerd, you missed ALL KINDS of stuff. That the Mother Box was even ALIEN wasn't really explained, never mind tying that to the "ringing of the bell" that presaged the Knightmare sequence. I also had people ask me why getting nuked make skeletor Clark, but a hole in the chest takes AGES to heal. I mean, really the only answer is "because that is how the did it in the books?" There is WHOLE CRAP TON of stuff in this movie that if you aren't familiar with the source material is really hard to get.


I freaking loved this movie. I still hate Zack Snyder's action sequences. I think Doomsday looked like a turd, and it might have been more interesting if it has been Bizzaro. 

But I also totally understand why people hate this movie. There is a CRAP LOAD of requisite knowledge you need, and a lot of attention to visual details, you need to "get" the movie. I have seen people bemoaning that "Martha" as a plot point was beat on so heavily, and still, when I was at the early screening, walking out I chatted with a dude who still didn't get that Martha Wayne and Martha Kent had the same damned name.

I think if they had moved 10 minutes from the BvS fight and 10 minute from the Doomsday fight into the more "thriller" first half of the movie, you might be having a Best Picture contender. It would be like the opposite of Mad Max -- a genre picture about story and not spectacle, but Zack just can't cut back on the spectacle. And having your intrepid reporter character in your thriller with three of six pieces to the puzzle and still ineffectual from a story perspective is SAD.

Monday, November 05, 2012

APIs Should Not Be Copyrightable

My friend Chris Adamson has a post up about why he thinks the effort post Oracle v Google to keep APIs as non-copyrightable is flawed.

Chris makes two main points here. 1) Protecting interoperability isn't a primary concern and 2) APIs are substantial collections of creative work and deserve protection.

The first point is interesting. The operative graph here is...

Interoperability doesn’t end if APIs are copyrighted, it just means that people and companies who create stuff control how it’s used — that’s literally what copyright is, after all — which may or may not include seeking/wanting/tolerating interoperability or reimplementation.
Ok.  That is one perspective. However, it would be a fascinating change to copyright vs patent law. Patent law has always supported a clear exception for "Reverse engineering for the sake of interoperability". Even if your design includes a 62 tooth gear at .5cm, and no one has ever made one before, that doesn't mean you can stop people from making a .5cm, 62 tooth gear as spare parts for your device. I think it is pretty clear the same applies to software.

But the part of this argument that bothers me the most is, it starts by blushing over what "An API Is" as a topic. (The second argument suffers a little from this, but it isn't as much a concert). Is an API a memory location a computer JMPs to begin executing code? Obviously no. An API requires a symbology. So lets try and narrow it down:

An API is a set of symbols that instruct a machine to behave in a predictable, predefined way.
That is a pretty big definition isn't it? By jumping immediately to the Java/C/ALGOL type definition of an API, we jump right past a lot of things. So here is a quick example:

pencolor red
fd 100
rt 120
fd 100
rt 120
fd 100
rt 60
Many of you may immediately recognize this, but what is this? Is this using an API to draw on the screen? Is this a data file format for outputting to a plotter? Does it matter? How much of LOGO can you reuse before you have "stolen" the API? If I use "rt" to mean "turn right" is that OK? What about REST APIs? Could I copyright a URL that ends in /users/[id] and /users/[id]/friends? Is that different than getUser(id) or getUser(id).getFriends()? Why would the later be protected and the former not?

Determining what is an API vs what we would call a "data file" is harder and harder. Open Office reads Word files, Word reads Word Perfect files, Word Perfect reads Wordstar files. Are these files, which contain a fixed symbology to tell a computer how to output something onto a screen and/or bit of paper, not expressions of an API? How does that differ from an interpreted language?

The thing is, in 1992 a lawsuit already determined that the Hayes Command Set for modems wasn't protected. Surely that was an API if there is any possible definition of one. But not just Hayes, "API" compatibility has been at the core of the entire PC industry since its inception. Language re-implementations, AMD using the Intel instruction set, "Soundblaster" becoming the default audio API on MS-DOS and Windows for many years. Chris might feel that these uses were unfair, but I shudder to think what the industry would look like today without them. It might also be fair to say that I am being somewhat farcical saying URL templates could be copyrightable. However, if we have learned anything about copyright and patent law in recent years, it is that what seems to be "common sense" among practitioners is rarely how things shake out in a legislature or jury room.

Chris's second main point is captured in this graph:

The software architect who designs a public API has to make value judgements about readability, feasibility, practicaility, implementability, and so on. She has to conceive of both how the code will be implemented, and how it will be used, how it it is likely to consume resources (storage, I/O, db, CPU) under different use scenarios, and how to deliver value to whoever calls it. In a way, this is the most abstract, highest-level of thinking we do in software. Why would that be unworthy of copyright, but the drudgery of all the for-next blocks in its implementation be protected? This is backwards!

Again, no one is arguing that an API isn't a creative work. However, simply being a creative work is not enough to warrant copyright protection. Clothing designs, recipes, and many other significant works of creativity are not covered by block copyright. Indeed, as much as the NFL and MLB might hate it, statements of fact, even if they include references to copyrighted works, are not protected. There used to be a huge industry of creating indexes and concordances as well, that would seem to me to be akin to reusing an API, that were considered protected.

But beyond this, I am forced to fall back to analogy. The Encyclopedia Britannica has represented a monumental amount of work for a great many scholars for decades. I tend to look at software as being very much akin to writing Encyclopedias, as you are coordinating authoritative locations for expressions of ideas, attempting to reference other articles and be as concise as possible without omitting key ideas. Now, suppose I took the Table of Contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica, itself a couple hundred pages, and payed a bunch of people to build a new encyclopedia with those entries. Have I violated the copyright of the Britannica? I would say no. Certainly there was creative input that went into the selection of those topics, and there is definitely an editorial product there. However, the Table of Contents is generally not something that we would consider "the work." Rather, like indexes and concordances, it is a fact about the work.

Now, let's say I took that Table of Contents and edited it down to 1/3rd the original size and produced "Cooper's Brief Encyclopedia." Now, I started with Britannica's TOC and made my own editorial judgement as to what was important and what was not, then payed a bunch of people to fill in the pages. Surely this is analogous to Google's use of a ~30% subset of the Java API in Android, no?

That is, an API is a creative work, but it is also a simple statement of fact about the larger creative work, not a work unto itself. To say it deserves the same protection as the implementation is opening a very large can of worms, not just in the software world, but out side of it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

--AZ-01: Rick Renzi

--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

--CA-04: John Doolittle

--CA-11: Richard Pombo

--CA-50: Brian Bilbray

--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

--CO-05: Doug Lamborn

--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell

--CT-04: Christopher Shays

--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan

--FL-16: Joe Negron

--FL-22: Clay Shaw

--ID-01: Bill Sali

--IL-06: Peter Roskam

--IL-10: Mark Kirk

--IL-14: Dennis Hastert

--IN-02: Chris Chocola

--IN-08: John Hostettler

--IA-01: Mike Whalen

--KS-02: Jim Ryun

--KY-03: Anne Northup

--KY-04: Geoff Davis

--MD-Sen: Michael Steele

--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

--MN-06: Michele Bachmann

--MO-Sen: Jim Talent

--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

--NV-03: Jon Porter

--NH-02: Charlie Bass

--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

--NM-01: Heather Wilson

--NY-03: Peter King

--NY-20: John Sweeney

--NY-26: Tom Reynolds

--NY-29: Randy Kuhl

--NC-08: Robin Hayes

--NC-11: Charles Taylor

--OH-01: Steve Chabot

--OH-02: Jean Schmidt

--OH-15: Deborah Pryce

--OH-18: Joy Padgett

--PA-04: Melissa Hart

--PA-07: Curt Weldon

--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

--PA-10: Don Sherwood

--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

--TN-Sen: Bob Corker

--VA-Sen: George Allen

--VA-10: Frank Wolf

--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

--WA-08: Dave Reichert

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mark Twain - Wikiquote

Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object — robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused the change? Merely a politician's trick — a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: Our Country, right or wrong! An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every schoolhouse in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor — none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, "Our Country, right or wrong," and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?
For in a republic, who is "the Country"? Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant — merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn't. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is "the country?" Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Is it the school-superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousand; it is in the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn’t.


In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country; in a republic it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catch-phrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country — hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of.
Only when a republic's life is in danger should a man uphold his government when it is in the wrong. There is no other time.
This Republic's life is not in peril. The nation has sold its honor for a phrase. It has swung itself loose from its safe anchorage and is drifting, its helm is in pirate hands.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

USB/IP Project

USB/IP Project: "The USB/IP Project aims to develop a general USB device sharing system over IP network. To share USB devices between computers with their full functionality, USB/IP encapsulates 'USB protocols' into IP packets and transmits them between computers. Original USB device drivers and applications can be also used for remote USB devices without any modification of them."

Sunday, November 20, 2005


technorati tags:

Sunday, September 11, 2005

BBspot - Microsoft Releases Box Set of Rarities and Oldies

BBspot - Microsoft Releases Box Set of Rarities and Oldies: "Redmond, WA - Microsoft has announced the release of a box set of their 'greatest operating systems of all time,' stuffed with their previous releases and tons of extras. The box set - entitled 'Microsoft 1975 - 2000: The Early Years' covers the company's rise from the early garage days to today.

Fans of the company should find everything they need in the box. Not only does it contain classics like DOS 3.30, Windows 3.11 and 95 OSR2.5 – it also contains rare cult material like Microsoft Bob, Windows 1.0 and ME. Die hard fans may complain about the decision to include the updated and patched versions instead of the original releases, but they are likely to have the entire collection, anyway.


Breakdowns Marked Path From Hurricane to Anarchy - New York Times

Breakdowns Marked Path From Hurricane to Anarchy - New York Times: "On Tuesday, a FEMA official who had just flown over the ravaged city by helicopter seemed to have trouble conveying to his bosses the degree of destruction, according to a New Orleans city councilwoman.

'He got on the phone to Washington, and I heard him say, 'You've got to understand how serious this is, and this is not what they're telling me, this is what I saw myself,' ' the councilwoman, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, recalled.

State and federal officials had spent two years working on a disaster plan to prepare for a massive storm, but it was incomplete and had failed to deal with two issues that proved most critical: transporting evacuees and imposing law and order."

Daring Fireball: The iTunes 5 Announcement From the Perspective of an Anthropomorphized Brushed Metal User Interface Theme

Daring Fireball: The iTunes 5 Announcement From the Perspective of an Anthropomorphized Brushed Metal User Interface Theme: "Brushed Metal: Calculator? I’m out of iTunes and you tell me I’ve still got Calculator? When is the Special Event scheduled for the next version of Calculator? Oh, that’s right, there is none, because no one gives a shit about Calculator."