Category Archives: Movies

My 78 Year Old Mother Explains “Breaking Bad”

She started talking about Breaking Bad, and I had my smartphone out…

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Supreme Court May Make Selling Used iPads Illegal

With all eyes on the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on Obamacare, you may have missed this story about how they could make selling your iPad (and lots of other things) effectively illegal. Writing for The Atlantic, Attorney Marvin Ammori warns:

The Supreme Court will soon hear a case that will affect whether you can sell your iPad — or almost anything else — without needing to get permission from a dozen “copyright holders.” Here are some things you might have recently done that will be rendered illegal if the Supreme Court upholds the lower court decision:

1. Sold your first-generation iPad on Craigslist to a willing buyer, even if you bought the iPad lawfully at the Apple Store.

2. Sold your dad’s used Omega watch on eBay to buy him a fancier (used or new) Rolex at a local jewelry store.

3. Sold an “import CD” of your favorite band that was only released abroad but legally purchased there. Ditto for a copy of a French or Spanish novel not released in the U.S.

Ammori says the case will require the Supremes to decide whether something called the First-Sale Doctrine applies to items manufactured outside the United States. The Doctrine, asserted by the Supreme Court in 1908,  says you can sell your used stuff even if it contains copyrighted material, because the copyright holder only controls  the “first sale.” Describing the lower court rulings in the case at hand, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, he says:

English: Apple iPad Event

Steve Jobs introduces the Apple iPad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Both the District and Second Circuit courts held that any product manufactured abroad is not subject to the first-sale doctrine. For instance, that iPad you sold. You noticed this statement: “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” Same for the iPods you’ve owned, the iPhones, and the MacBooks. Because those products were manufactured abroad, according to the Second Circuit, the first-sale doctrine doesn’t apply to them. You need the permission of every copyright holder to sell the iPad. That means, you need to ask Apple for permission, and probably Google, whose Maps software comes bundled with the iPad, and includes Google copyrights.

Allow me to make a related observation. Hollywood never liked the First-Sale Doctrine and the resulting trade in used movies (they don’t get a piece of the action, and fewer people buy the products new.) That’s one reason they’re making such a push to kill physical discs and encourage media streaming. They own it, they control it, and you’re just paying for the right to view it. Once.

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Rise of the Prosumer (and Struggling Artists)

English: Marshall McLuhan, Quentin Fiore: The ...

Marshall McLuhan, Quentin Fiore: The Medium is the Massage (Spread from the book.) Original photo: Peter Moore) Published in 2001 by Ginko Press Inc., Corte Madera, CA, USA. ISBN: 1-58423-070-3.

I read The Third Wave by futurist Alvin Toffler in the early 1980s, and was particularly interested in his predictions about the rise of what he called “prosumers,” a combination of “producer” and “consumer.” Today, I am amazed at his prescience (despite what now appears a narrow focus on consumer goods.)

When I broaden the concept to include services and media, I see this trend in everything from YouTube to customized Scions to self-checkout lines at the supermarket to the demise of travel agents. From the Wikipedia entry:

Marshall McLuhan and Barrington Nevitt suggested in their 1972 book Take Today, (p. 4) that with electric technology, the consumer would become a producer. In the 1980 book, The Third Wave, futurologist Alvin Toffler coined the term “prosumer” when he predicted that the role of producers and consumers would begin to blur and merge … Toffler envisioned a highly saturated marketplace as mass production of standardized products began to satisfy basic consumer demands. To continue growing profit, businesses would initiate a process of mass customization, that is the mass production of highly customized products.

Regarding media and creative content, I see a related trend. The barriers to entry have largely been erased. In the past, a relatively small number of people created content for millions of consumers. Today, millions of ordinary people have the ability to create a professional quality movie, book, magazine, or music track using relatively cheap tools. Of course, this is of wonderful. Unfortunately, it’s had a negative side effect: The value of creative content and skills has fallen through the floor. In the past, there were relatively few people able to devote significant time to doing creative work, but at least some of them were able to make a living at it.

Still, I think the democratization of media production has been worth it. In other words, I’d rather live in a world of millions of musicians making music for small audiences, rather than a handful of millionaire rock stars playing sold-out arenas.

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Creative Works of Recent Dictators


English: North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

What I Really Want to Do Is Direct: The late North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il was also a passionate filmmaker. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Famous dictators often have a creative side. Adolf Hitler went to art school. The late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi wrote novels. Here’s an excerpt:

After man had travelled in outer space so much that he had become overcome by dizziness, after government budgets could no longer support expensive space programmes, after man landed on the moon and found nothing, after the two astronauts exposed the wild speculations of scientists concerning the existence of seas and oceans on the moon’s surface and the arrogant ‘Great Powers’ competed over owning and naming them, almost coming into conflict over dividing the moon’s wealth – especially marine resources – and after approaching the members of the solar system, taking their pictures and despairing of ever finding or being able to sustain life, man returned to earth, dizzy, nauseous, and fearing doom.

In fact, it was simply the case that the earth is the only known land, unique, a source of life. Life means water and food; earth is the only place that provides us with these. The only true needs are bread, dates, milk, meat, and water. The only air necessary for life is that which surrounds the earth. And so, man returned to the earth from his adventure in outer space.

The astronaut removed his space suit and donned an ordinary one, so that he could resume his life upon the ground, having ended his mission in space. He began to look for earth-based work. He entered a carpenter’s shop, but could not handle such simple tasks, since they were outside his area of specialization.

In a similar vein, here’s the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il‘s monster movie, Pulgasari. Budding film directors may also wish to read his textbook on film direction, Cinema and Directing.

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A Beautiful Movie (Days of Heaven)

Terrence Malick is one of my favorite film directors. My favorite Malick film is Days of Heaven (though I have yet to seen The Tree of Life.) Cinematographer Néstor Almendros won the 1979 Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and deservedly so. This is one beautiful movie.

Don’t go to it expecting lots of action or a fast-moving plot (though there is indeed some action, and a plot.) Instead, think of it as a time machine that will let you experience life in early 20th Century America. I can’t name a film that better evokes a sense of a time and place. (Also, for what it’s worth, it stars a young Richard Gere.) Here’s the opening sequence:

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