Tuesday, January 01, 2019

When Copyright Atrophies

slogans from Eric Eldred's campaign to overturn the Copyright Term Extension Act
 Never thought I'd live to see today... the day on which new works enter the United States public domain.

In the mid-1990s, it still seemed to be a routine matter for copyrights to expire on older work, with the occasional news story about which works of 1920, 1921, and 1922 were becoming free for all to access, publish and adapt.

Then in 1998, 20 years were added to all existing copyrights, after copyright holders realized they could simply lobby for increasing the lengths of existing copyrights that were about to lapse (as opposed to the gradual lengthening of how long copyrights will last on new works). Eric Eldred's taking to court the unconstitutionality of such potentially-perpetual retroactive delays (which pretty clearly contravene the Constitution's statement that such terms shall last "for limited times") resulted in the Supreme Court upholding them in 2003.

By the time I joined Distributed Proofreaders the following year, I thought that we'd be confined to merely digging up more and more obscure material from before the 1923 cutoff date. Yet while those 20 years took, well, 20 years to pass, the feared "oh wait, we need 20 more years to, um, go back in time to give century-old creators more incentive" renewal has not. (Ironically, works created in 2004 would have become public domain today under the original copyright length of 14 years.) Americans can finally create like it's 1923!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Three are Free, Baby


It has been a while since I last blogged about writing for Thomas L. Knapp's William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism, but at long last I've capped off a planned troika of op-ed commentaries started this summer with the Oscar-baiting "The Madness of the Academy."  "Can't Stop the Bookstore" struck back with my examination of how Amazon's $15 wage may not be the pure concession it has been assumed to be on both sides of the conflict. Along the way, I took a look at the forgotten history of corporate liberalism, explained how a small bookstore has succeeded where Barnes & Noble failed, and found a plotline that The Simpsons hasn't done yet. The trilogy concludes with "Protectionist Presidents are the Parents of Our Country's Trusts" taking on the still-current fallout of Trump's trade policies, uncovering the hidden history of free trade as a progressive cause.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

It's a World, World, World, Wide Mad

When I posted last week about my commentary piece "The Madness of the Academy" I didn't know if my take on the Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film would get any attention. After some time circulating through the series of tubes, I dare say that it's more popular than the Oscar itself. It's made its way to the New Haven Register, Citizens Journal, USA Today's The Spectrum, and Counterpunch (and, via Counterpunch, to Open Mind NewsRadio Free and Bestseller Magazine).

It's even made it to the print-as-in-on-actual-newsprint opinion pages of The Register Citizen, The Middletown Press, The Daily Lobo and Salt Lake City Weekly. And no, I'm not Tom Knapp (but then again, that's what I want you to think - have you ever seen us in the same place?), but the words inadvertently credited to the guy who created The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism, wrote 99% of its content, encouraged this piece and got it ready for publication, and sent it to thousands of outlets are mine (as corrected in the online version).  And I dig Salt Lake City Weekly's cool and well-designed layout, in which a reader opening the page to those words of mine would see them in the company of Peter Yarrow, He-Man and She-Ra with beer buddies Skeletor and Orko (the Trollan's imbibing explains a lot), and even an installment of Tom Tomorrow's cartoon This Modern World!

This won't be the last op-ed I write for the Garrison Center (how many I write and how fast I write them depends on how much Tom has to pay me for them), but if there are any publications you think will be interested in running this not-yet-dated take on the Academy, let them know!

Monday, August 20, 2018

In Which I Grouch About the Oscars

"The Madness of the Academy" is my take on the Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film, my first commentary piece in a long time for Thomas L. Knapp's The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism. I've enjoyed getting back in the op-ed writing game and set to write a couple more in the coming months ... but I'll be able to write more of them if Tom has more money to buy them from me!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mother Knows Bester

What, me patriarch?
"Even in Pleasantville, there was more to life than Pleasantville," as Jesse Walker noted, but there was even more among the undead in Mockingbird Heights:

"Herman, as head of the house, I think you should get to the bottom of this. Now, you go right on upstairs and have a father-and-son talk with your boy."

"Well, gosh, Lily, I'm not very good at that, y'know, dear. You're his mother. Why don't you go up and have a father-and-son talk with him?"

"No! A think like that is up to the father!" Anyone who's watched Father Knows Best for nine years ought to know that."

"All right. But Donna Reed always handles these things on her show, y'know."

(Eddie's parents in the Munsters episode "Operation Herman")

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Hidden Treasure: The Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre

The first of an upcoming series of Joel’s overlooked personal favorite places, events and other things that should be better known.

What is it?

A palatial movie theater.

Where is it hidden?

In Jersey City, New Jersey.

Why is it a treasure?

The screen is huuuge.  Like, very huge.  That-aquatic-dinosaur-in-Jurassic World-that-dwarfs-a-whale huge.  While some IMAX and similar screens may be larger, the sheer feeling of an entire building devoted to one humongous screen is like nowhere else.

Popcorn and drinks are a dollar each. With tickets usually going for $8 (less for double or triple features!), there’s no better value for a dropped Hamilton.

The building is unique and historic.
It dates back to 1929!  Built just before the stock market crash, the last pre-Great Derpession moment when lavish building for a mass audience was economically feasible, it maintains much of its original style.  Much of the facade still needs fixing up from decades of disrepair, but the core functions of a theater are fully operational, and the twist on the original grandeur makes it perfect for an Addams family reunion (which actually was a theme this past Halloween!)

How did I find it?

I knew about it for a while (I’d sometimes seen flyers for its upcoming screenings at NYC theaters such as Film Forum), but it was the closing of Manhattan’s Ziegfeld theater in early 2016 that spurred me to check it out.

Why is it hidden?
It’s a little out of the way of the NYC-focused revival theater circuit, and not as hip as the Alamo Drafthouse theaters in Yonkers and Brooklyn.  As a non-commercial theater, it doesn’t do current releases or have big marketing campaigns.  (Then again, the Ziegfeld was neglected when it was run like a typical big-chain commercial theater in its later years.)

And unfortunately, it lacks a working air conditioning system, so it has to take a summer break during peak moviegoing season.

What is the path to the treasure? Well, literally a PATH, since it’s across the street from the Journal Square PATH station.  “JSQ” is part of a subway line (though not part of the “NYC subway” system, another reason it’s quasi-“hidden”) that bridges New Jersey and Manhattan and connects to various transit systems.


There is one last movie screening tonight before the summer break — The Red Shoes at 7PM — and the building will be open for the JCArts Annual Year-End Gallery Show.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Is this thing still on?

It's been a while.

This blog was never updated on a daily basis even in its early heyday, but it trailed off in a major way.  Some of this is due to Twitter and then Facebook, and my attempted clean break to Wordpress was unsuccessful in starting new momentum where the old had stopped.

But I've been craving a return to the old-school blogosphere from the maelstrom of gossip and trivia and venting that is social media.  That's where everyone seems to be nowadays, but some of my fellow bloggers who started around the time I did, like Tom Knapp, have kept at personal blogging with a regular if relatively small readership, so it can be done.

And I was sick through most of May, so any attempt at doing a whole month of writing would have to wait.

So in a new month, here I am.  Are you?