RE: Where’s the Fair Use?

Today I do a video response to the Nostalgia Critic’s video about fair use and the ongoing crusade to fix YouTube’s copyright system.

Link to the EFF’s site: http://eff.org

Below is the Nostalgia Critic’s video:

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It’s a Deadpool, Breakfast Club, Fair Use Kind of Thing

This week’s episode features a review of Deadpool, an editorial of The Breakfast Club, more Fanboy News, a response to the Nostalgia Critic’s video about the YouTube copyright system, and I get to try Burger King’s new Grilled Dog and their answer to the Oreo Irish Mint Shake.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Well, everyone. This is it. The big one. The movie review that everyone has been waiting all year for and it’s a movie that I have been promoting throughout 2015. Ladies and gentlemen, here is the review for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

But first, let’s talk about Star Wars. To sum it up, the Star Wars franchise is my Twilight, my Harry Potter, my Hunger Games franchise. The first Star Wars movie I did not see in theaters because it came out nine months before I was born. The first time I saw Star Wars was on Videodisc in the early 80’s. Then as my long-term viewers know, my earliest childhood memory was seeing Empire Strikes Back at the drive-in in Hudson, New York when I was 2 years old. I distinctly remember seeing Yoda on the big screen. Then three years later I saw Return of the Jedi at the drive-in in Hyde Park. And when the Special Edition movies were released in theaters, I didn’t have enough money to see the special editions of the original and Empire Strikes Back but as a reward from managing Girls’ basketball at Red Hook High School I got a movie pass to the movies in Red Hook where I used the pass for several movies and the first one I used the pass on was the special edition of Return of the Jedi (and that was before George Lucas got the idea to digitally insert Hayden Christensen at the end.)

And yeah, there were the prequels. I saw Phantom Menace in theaters as well as Attack of the Clones and yes, I felt let down like everyone else. And I didn’t see Episode 3 until it came out on DVD because I didn’t have the money. And I thought that Episode 3 was the best of the prequels despite the cheesy Hayden Christensen dialogue and a cheesy “Noooo!” when he finally turns into Darth Vader. And I did not see the Clone Wars cartoon or movie but I’ll take your word for it that they suck and I haven’t seen that Rebels cartoon either.

But when I heard that JJ Abrams who is a devout Star Wars fan was going to direct The Force Awakens and after watching each of the trailers that were released since last November I got more excited but I think everyone really got stoked for when they saw Han and Chewie at the end of the second trailer. At that point I realized that this was going to be really special. And when I saw it in theaters opening night, I was not disappointed.

And since there may still be people who have not seen the brilliance of The Force Awakens yet, I’ll try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible which means I will not give away the three major spoilers (and there are three major spoilers) and they are the true identity of Kylo Ren, who dies in the movie, and probably the most important one of all: Where the hell is Luke Skywalker? In fact, the first line in the opening crawl is “Luke Skywalker has vanished,” which sets up that Luke is kind of the goal of the movie and that’s all I can tell you. Everything else, you have to see the movie. But I’ll give out one little spoiler: One of the most quoted Star Wars lines that appeared in every movie is here too and everyone knows what that line is: “I have a bad feeling about this.”

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Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

From the get-go, you can tell that this film is sort of a love letter to the original trilogy as in there is a lot of parallels to A New Hope as well as a couple little nods to The Empire Strikes Back. You get that Rey is actually being set up to be the new Luke Skywalker which is actually a big deal because she is a woman who just happens to handle herself really well despite the fact that she is introduced as this person who has pretty much been on her own all of her life. She is played by Daisy Ridley who has been compared by critics to Keira Knightley and not just because they’re both British. And the comparisons are sort of ironic because one of Keira’s earliest roles was in Star Wars (she was Natalie Portman’s double in The Phantom Menace.) And also Daisy Ridley is kind of a cross between Carrie Fisher in the original trilogy’s heyday and Natalie Portman in the prequels.

Anyway, after the iconic opening crawl sequence and the movie begins, we are introduced to the remains of the Empire, now calling themselves The First Order and they are actually more evil than even the Empire was in the original trilogy and their goal as established in the crawl is to find Luke Skywalker and wipe him off the face of the earth because he is the last Jedi Knight. On the other end, there is the Resistance which is an evolved form of the Rebel Alliance that is led by General Leia (played once again by Carrie Fisher who actually gets only several minutes of screen time.) The First Order also has a Death Star-style weapon which they’re calling the Starkiller Base (which I’m guessing is kind of a nod to Luke Skywalker’s original name when George Lucas was writing the original Star Wars) which has the power to annihilate whole galaxies as opposed to a single planet (or in the case of the second Death Star in Jedi two giant Rebel starships.)

We are also first introduced to Finn (played by John Boydega) who is still slightly controversial because of the whole black Stormtrooper thing and in later trailers when he is seen wielding Luke’s and Anakin’s original lightsaber which was lost in Empire Strikes Back and that lightsaber plays a key role in this movie which is good. At first glimpse we assumed that he was an undercover Resistance operative but the truth is he really is a First Order Stormtrooper who winds up defecting to the Resistance because he is sickened by what the First Order stands for and refuses to carry out atrocities in their name (and that is partly the reason for the PG-13 rating and it is the second Star Wars movie to get said rating along with Revenge of the Sith.)

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“Look how awesome and badass my triple-bladed lightsaber is.”

We are also introduced to the movie’s main villain Kylo Ren and his medieval-looking lightsaber who is played by Adam Driver who does a pretty good job and is believable as a villain who worships Darth Vader and follow in his footsteps (hell he even has the melted remains of Darth Vader’s mask on a shrine.) We get to see him use the Force primarily to torture people like when he tortures the X-Wing fighter pilot in the final trailer. And there are a couple instances when he comes off as whiny especially one scene where he takes his triple-bladed lightsaber and goes to town on a computer console when he finds out that our heroes got away. Thankfully, he doesn’t go too far into Hayden Christensen territory whenever he has his temper tantrums.

And speaking of the X-Wing fighter pilot in this movie, his name is Poe Dameron and he is played by Oscar Isaac and you can tell that they’re building him up to be the next Han Solo. His droid co-pilot BB-8 (the R2/Wilson hybrid) contains information vital to the Resistance and they have to get him back to the Resistance so that they can get the plans so they can save the galaxy (sound familiar?) And I actually like BB-8 who I think is actually cuter than R2-D2.

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“Chewie, we’re home.”

While the first third is introducing us to the new characters, the second act begins after they escape from the planet Jakku and we are reintroduced to Han Solo and Chewbacca and as far as I’m concerned Harrison Ford is easily the best part of the movie. Even though he is playing a 70-year-old Han Solo, you can tell he is still Han Solo and managed to avoid what happened when he made a comeback as Indiana Jones in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (speaking of which the new Emperor, a character that is named Supreme Leader Snoke and is played by Andy Serkis actually looks like one of the aliens that appeared at the end of Crystal Skull.) Like I said before when Han is telling Finn and Rey that everything about the Jedi, the Sith and the Force is all true because before that scene, Rey was pretty much convinced that Luke Skywalker wasn’t even real. In short, she is just like the audience. And as I commented in my review of the last trailer when the scene where Han says that the Force and the Jedi are real, I was like, “Han Solo is the last person I would expect to acknowledge the existence of the Force” because when we meet him in New Hope, Han was a non-believer who felt that the only thing he needed was a gun and a lot of luck. So basically what I got out of Han in this movie is that he is basically a hybrid between the Han we all grew up with and Obi-Wan Kenobi because he is older and wiser.

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Just like old times.

And the effects are pretty awesome. There are some characters who are CGI but JJ said that he wanted to go back to how the original trilogy was done as far as using models as opposed to all CGI like the prequels did. I liked seeing the new X-Wing fighters, the new TIE-fighters and of course the Millennium Falcon and there are a lot of good scenes involving that too. But I gotta warn you there are some JJ-trademarks in the movie including of course lens flares and there are a couple instances of Shakycam which is prominent during the Millennium Falcon chase sequence on Jakku where the TIE-fighters chase the Falcon into the rocket booster of a wrecked Star Destroyer. At first I was worried that I was going to be comparing this to Star Trek 2009 which some accused of being a remake of New Hope but actually the comparisons here are minimal. About the only way I can compare the two movies is the fact that both films have the same approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes: 95 percent. By comparison, both A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back both have a 94 rating.

In short, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Was it worth the wait? Fuck, yes it was! This film is everything the prequels were not. This shows that this was done by someone who cares about Star Wars and about the characters rather than just churning a half-assed product out for a quick buck again like the prequels. And here’s where I will let out a teeny-tiny spoiler: JJ put a scene in where there is obviously a nod to the prequels. You have to watch for it but trust me it’s there.

The Force Awakens is so good that it will leave you saying, “Prequels? What prequels?” It’s a movie that truly is Star Wars and stays true to the ideals of the original movies. People who grew up on this franchise and felt betrayed by the prequels will feel nostalgia for the originals and it will very likely bring in new fans of the franchise as well. So if you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Get out there now and see it and the countdown has officially begun for Episode 8 which is expected to be released in The Force Awakens’ December 2017 which is fitting because 2017 will mark the 40th anniversary of the original film. And also don’t forget about the spinoff movies that will be appearing starting with this December’s Rogue One.

 

 

The Wal-Mart Baseball Bat Incident

            When you work in any profession there is always the chance that you can run into some type of dangerous situation, whether it is an accident which could cause injury and sometimes even death or there is a possibility that you could have a run-in with a dangerous and mentally unstable person who is looking for someone to take his anger out on. Normally this applies to high-risk occupations like police work, construction and so on. And as I learned one night in 2007, retail is no exception.
            It was a cold February night in 2007 while I was still working on the overnight shift at the Wal-Mart in Herkimer, New York. That night I went into work thinking that it was going to be another normal night of stocking freight to the sales floor so that customers could buy them. At that time I was assigned to the Electronics department even though as an overnight stocker I was expected to go wherever they needed me to stock. And on overnights, you usually have a more colorful group of characters that come into the store. There are the kind that are usually drunk and on their way home from the bar. You also got college students coming in and occasionally cause trouble with shoplifting and running around the store as though they are still in kindergarten. There was even one time around Halloween in 2005 where a local bar had a “hoe and pimp” costume contest and when that got out you had a group of young women coming into the store dressed only in lingerie.
            However, for the purpose of this story I am going to focus on that one particular incident that happened that night in February 2007.
            Also at that time, I had been blogging for about a year and was in the process of writing a book about the Chester Gillette case at the Herkimer County Historical Society, both of which I had been heavily involved in. I was also starting to use the computers up at the college to go on Myspace back when Myspace was a thing. In fact, I was planning to go back to the Historical Society to work on my book the week after Valentine’s Day and also after my twenty-ninth birthday. Unfortunately, those plans would be unceremoniously thwarted for the worst possible reason.
When I first got up that night, I was feeling a little nauseous and I was debating whether or not to call in that night. Eventually the nausea went away and I ended up going into work. Maybe if I really was sick and called in, I would not be writing this story right now.
The first half of that night was going okay and it was around two in the morning which was when I normally went to lunch. While I was going towards the shoe department, I realized that maintenance was waxing over by those doors that night so I had to go back and go through the doors over by Electronics. I was not really paying attention as I was passing the Photo Lab because all I was thinking about was going to lunch.
And that was when I was hit in the back by a guy with a metal baseball bat that he took out of Sporting Goods. I did not even have enough time to react but then he kept swinging and backed me right into the Photo Lab. I put my right hand up to block and then he swung again, hitting my right hand. I screamed at him and he stood there for a second with a crazed look in his eye. Then he threw the bat and ran.
 The attack was completely unprovoked and I have had no dealings with the person before that. Other associates who were on overnights doing mod changes witnessed my attack and chased him out into the parking lot. During the chase, one of the associates called the police and once he got on the other side of the fence the Herkimer Police Department got there in time and he was arrested very quickly.
            Then the cops came into the store to get a statement from me and then they took me in the back where the police cars pulled up so I could identify the guy. Then the cops took photos of my injuries and the scene of the attack. After that I ended up going to the hospital where I was x-rayed. The doctors thought I had a little crack on my right ring finger but otherwise I had no broken bones or fractures. My luck as far as never having any broken bones was still holding. Still I ended up wearing a splint for a week and I had to put an ice pack on my back for a couple of days.
            Even though I went home from work after I returned from the hospital with a side trip to the police station to drop off my doctor’s report, the doctors said that I didn’t have to miss any work. I also had to take a drug test which is mandatory for Walmart associates who have been injured on the job. Then I had to get forms from Bassett Health Care in Herkimer. And in all that time I was still debating about whether or not to tell my family. They found out eventually and they weren’t mad that I didn’t tell them right away because it was obvious why. I did not want to worry them.
            And so I spent the last couple of weeks on light duty at work which was basically doing break packs, returns and zoning various departments. It was pretty annoying not to be able to do my full job, at least partially.
Then I went back to Bassett where I was examined. I was able to get my splint off and was x-rayed again. The doctor said that I had to remain on light duty at work for at least another two weeks. Or so I thought. I had to get a doctor’s note before I could return to full duty which took about a month to get.
            As a result of my ordeal, I could not blog on my site for at least a week because my right hand was still hurting and I was worried that using a computer would aggravate it more. I also had to take more time off of my book at the Historical Society which set me back a lot. Thankfully, it was only for about a week. After I got the splint off, I blogged about my ordeal. But other than that I had to take it easy for a bit.
            During my recovery process, I did feel like I was suffering from a temporary moment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder where I kind of burst out in rage which I thought was natural considering that something like this has never happened to me before or since then. Sure, I have dealt with bullies in school when I was a kid, but nothing that would lead someone to nearly kill me with a weapon. He probably would have had he aimed at my head and there was also the fact that there were other associates around that saw him attack me.
            And then a strange thing happened. To this day, I am not sure if it was the shock I still felt or whether it was the ibuprofen talking, but I had visions of a young woman holding my hand and telling that everything would be all right. Call me crazy, but I swear to god that this is the truth.
            In the weeks that followed and I slowly recovered, I went to tell my story to the Grand Jury so that the District Attorney could build his case against my attacker. In the meantime, he was held in the County Jail which incidentally was right down the street from my house and he was not let out on bail. When he was first caught, he had no sense of reality and had no idea why he was being arrested. Other associates who have seen him described him as a manic-depressive person who has had problems with the store before. While he was in jail, my attacker had been undergoing psychiatric evaluation to see if he would be fit to stand trial. That was another thing I had to worry about: Would I have to go to court and testify again if the case went to trial? I was hoping to put this behind me as quickly as possible.
            And yet I still managed to do some things that helped me take my mind off the ordeal. For starters, about a couple weeks after the incident, I went to Hamilton College with a person I worked with to attend the ceremony where Chester Gillette’s prison diary was donated to the library’s collection of Gillette memorabilia for which I got my picture in the Observer-Dispatch again. I also went on the Heart Run in Utica with my mother as well. And I received my first laptop computer from a contact I made in Houston, Texas as a result of the Gillette blog. Now with that computer, I was able to continue working on my book and at the same time I launched what is now my main website. It seemed that slowly but surely that my life was starting to return to normal.
            And throughout the remainder of the year, I got updates from the District Attorney’s Office on the status of the case and on the defendant. I basically wanted the defendant to get whatever sentence the court deemed fit to give him. I did not sue him because he looked like the type of guy who did not have anything to go after. Eventually, the case ended up not going to trial and he ended up getting sentenced to five years’ probation. And I never saw the guy again after his arrest. Finally, the ordeal was over.
            As far as what happened, I have long since gotten over the incident and I do not have any long-lasting lingering effects such as pain in my right hand or any bad memories of that night. Looking back on what happened that night, I could not fight back because I was on the clock and there has been some controversy about losing your job if you act in self-defense. However, if this happened on the street, I would have had more options and I would have been able to fight back. But all in all, I acted accordingly in that case.
Hopefully I will not find myself in that situation again but then again, retail can be just as dangerous as police work especially in terms of the people you deal with. There will always be crazies out there that are looking to do an innocent person trying to do his or her job harm. I was very fortunate to be alive that night but there have been others that have not been so lucky. The world is a pretty dangerous place which is why people have to be vigilant because this is just one of many things that could happen to anybody if you are not careful.