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I'm A Polish Ham, I'm A Christmas Ham

Ah, life in a nearly exclusively Christian community....


Work gave us each a Christmas ham. We were to pick them up as we left for the day.

My supervisor, new to the facility, rather young, is handing them out and crossing our names off the list.

He gave me mine and said, "Merry Christmas!"

I said, This is discriminatory.

"...what?"

It's a Christmas ham. What about people who don't celebrate Christmas? Like Jewish people. Can't they get a ham?

I then walked away before he could say anything.


The superintendent is walking the floor to see how things are going and look for things that need to be straightened up for clients coming to visit the facility. He spots me on the floor, points at me, and yells, "PETER!"

I stop dead as he stalks up to me. He gets right in front of me, then barks, "QUIT SCREWING WITH YOUR SUPERVISOR!!!" And he stalks away.

Now I know why my supervisor was glaring at me through the morning meeting....

"OMG! THEY'RE GOING TO KILL POISON IVY!!!"

You are aware this is comic books, right? No one stays dead in comic books, right?

Over Hair, Over There

Confidential to....

She's eight years older than me and she's had three kids. There's NO WAY that's her natural hair color.


Important Life Lessons

Spilling your straight pins on the floor is like playing some weird hybrid of "The Floor Is Lava" and "Where's Waldo?", only Waldo stabs you if you don't find him.

Developing Confidence Just Causes Trouble

...I think the time has come....

....I think it's time for me to attempt to make a Batman cosplay.....


Confidential To....

Look, I remember my Star Wars. Twilight would NOT have a purple lightsaber. Purple lightsabers were for Jedi who used a mix of light and dark. Twilight would have a green lightsaber, which is what the Jedi Councilors (educators and diplomats) used. THAT is consistent with the character, goddammit!

Oh, and blue was for warrior class and yellow for stealth agents. Given the focus on studying the Force, Twilight MIGHT have a yellow lightsaber, but she'd more likely have green.

Charge Of The Trite Brigade

Yessir...there's nothing like trying to remove a swollen LithIon battery that's been in a friend's laptop that's sat unused for eight years to really test that manual dexterity....

A Stitch In Time Hurts Like Hell

...well...I just managed to drive the sewing needle on the machine into the tip of my left index finger.

Never thought sewing machines fought back, but here we are.

Although, interestingly, I didn't swear or anything. My first instinct was to get away so I didn't bleed on the fabric and ruin it.

I'll catch up tomorrow. Typing with this bandage is nearly impossible. And replacing the bent needle in the machine was just a bundle of kicks.

Jesus, Take The Wheel

So, a couple of months ago, my teacher asked me if I could make Batman and Batgirl costumes for her grandkids for Christmas (ages 6 and 8). Of course, I couldn't say no.

Scheduling conflicts abounded, but I finally made it to her daughter's place so I could get the kids' measurements.

At some point, she had told them what was coming. And they wanted different costumes. She said she would bring it up.

I mentioned to her, Remember, I don't do bad guys.

"I agree completely."

First up was the six year old girl. As I took her measurements, my teacher said, "Tell him what you want."

"I want Harley Quinn."

Well, that arched an eyebrow with me. Ostensibly, she's supposed to be one of the bad guys. But her depiction is notoriously variable. Even in her canonical debut series, Batman The Animated Series, she wasn't exactly evil so much as suggestible and she just hung out with the wrong crowd. Her solo series depicts her trying to navigate the values programmed into her and working her way out from those shadows. And DC's kids media tries to frame her as a fun heroine with a wacky streak instead of really mean.

I said, Borderline, but okay. I'll do it.

Next up, though, was the 8 year old boy. As I took his measurements, I asked what he wanted.

"It."

I stopped. You mean, Pennywise?

"Yes."

I looked at my teacher. No.

"How about the Joker?"

No.

"But you said anything I want."

New rule: no bad guys.

My teacher had a little talk with him. She said, "Well, if you want a clown, how about Bozo?"

"He's scary."

By now, I was simply leaning on the table with my face in my hand as they went over why Bozo was scary but Pennywise wasn't.

He then gets an idea. "How about Slenderman? He's cool! He kills people!"

I heard my teacher say, "Time for a talk."

I said, Time for a therapist.

It was then that the kid noticed the Deadpool watch I was wearing. "Oh! How about Deadpool?!?"

Okay. Deadpool, I can do.

"Can you make the unicorn, too?"

My teacher looked confused. I looked at her levelly and said, Remember the first movie?

"No! Just the costume!"

As I was leaving and my teacher was walking me to my car, I told her, You might want to ask your daughter how her 8 year old son knows about plot details from the Deadpool movie.

"Roger that."

Words Fail Me

It seems, every year, there's one mass produced costume that just makes my jaw drop.  Something that is so amazingly wrong on every level, it actually causes my brain to stop dead and go, "...what just happened?"

Longtime readers know that, last year, it was a kid's costume for Anne Frank, complete with a smiling little girl and breathless ad copy. I thought that was the most tasteless, offensive, and stupid costume I had ever seen.  But nope.  This one is it.  This one wins the Golden Toiler Chain With Crossed Legs.  This is proof that God hates us and doesn't want us to be happy.

I just got back from a little Halloween social gathering.

And standing there was a woman in a sexy version of the iconic dress from The Handmaid's Tale.

Literally.  My brain froze.  I literally could not process what I was seeing in front of my eyes.

And here's the worst part -- because I make costumes, I can examine what is being worn and generally determine if something is handmade or mass produced for Party City and Spirit and all that rot.

It was.

Some costume company decided to make a sexy version of The Handmaid's Tale dress and figured there would be thousands of people looking to buy and wear it.

I did a search online and found it.


I love the title.  "Yandy Brave Red Maiden."  Nothing says, "I'm trying to keep my ass from getting sued into oblivion" like a title like that.

I'm speechless.  I'm absolutely speechless.  I don't even know where to begin.  All my thoughts want to pour out in a jumble, like some guy on a street corner screaming about the world around him but unable to put anything cogent together.

This is, hands down, the worst Halloween costume I've ever seen.  On the Wrong Meter, it overflows the integer and goes around again.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to pour myself a little drinkie....

Speaking Of "Size Is Everything..."

Her: Size doesn't matter. If it did, the elephant would be king of the jungle!

Me: If size doesn't matter, why do they make 12 inch dildos?

Size Is Everything

...but I made it according to the pattern.

"Peter, it doesn't matter. The pattern is sized for the average male. Men your height usually have a 34 inch inseam. And YOU have a 31 inch inseam. Longer torso, shorter legs. Of course it didn't fit you correctly."

It's amazing how everything can be quiet on a certain front, and then, in less than a week, it blows up with all sorts of news, events, and coverage. And in doing so, people become so angry about something they overlook why what they hate needs to exist in the first place.

But first, I want to lead off with a reference. Something that is a fun, interesting memory that actually portends a lot more once it is held up against the big picture.

On Star Trek -- Deep Space Nine, one of the main characters was Major Kira Nerys, a no-nonsense, take charge woman who had been a prominent figure in the liberation of her planet. During one episode, she and the head of station security, Odo, discovered another regular character, Quark, was shadowing her and taking holographic images of her. Given that Quark had previously admitted he had hoped to get Kira drunk and get into her pants (start of the Season 2 episode "The Circle"), this was cause for some concern.

Upon being cornered, Quark said he was taking scans of Kira for use in a virtual reality program about the station, because there were people who wanted to see what it was like to explore the station and be a part of its operation (or people like me who wondered what exactly was on Level 3 of Quark's and how to get there). The duo quickly made the leap that the users might be interested more in things like virtual sex with Kira. Quark simply ignored the point and continued the discussion, which is telling -- he would flat out deny things even when confronted with solid evidence, so his silence on this point is damning. The whole operation was stopped simply because the principals were worried about the sexual angle of the whole thing.

It's hard to watch the scene and not see it as a little bit of playful finger-wagging at a fandom that helped create the phenomena of slashfic, fan fiction stories that focused on erotic content and romantic relationships. With the rise of fandoms in the present day, show creators, talent, and networks find themselves in the uncomfortable position of trying to be encouraging and accepting of their audience while hoping things don't go too far. Lauren Faust, the creator of My Little Pony -- Friendship Is Magic, found herself on the receiving end of an Internet hate mob when she said she found the excesses of the Brony community to be disturbing. Alex Hirsch, the creator of the amazing Gravity Falls, loved his fandom, but said he found their efforts to write slashfic of Dipper and Mabel disturbing (Dipper and Mabel were underage, pre-pubescent, and brother and sister). The TV show Supernatural even addressed this when the central characters somehow came across fanfic that had been written about them, prompting one to ask, "They do know we're brothers, right?"

Now, the reason I'm focusing on the more icky elements of fandoms has to tie in with the protests going on over CBS/Paramount and their latest action involving the Star Trek fandom. It's an action that has people calling for a reworking of copyright law to allow exceptions for fan works made without the intent of making a profit.

Yes, once again, we are going to trudge into the legal quagmire that is the Star Trek fandom versus the Star Trek rights holders. In the past couple of years, things have gone from peaceful and everybody simply doing whatever to a hostile relationship with both sides doing questionable things that only reinforces the stances of the other side. Now, I've never been more than a casual Trek fan. I'm not in-depth on the lore of the series, but I know enough to follow what's happening, and I did enjoy it.

Now, some of you remember the last time I dealt with this, in the form of the Axanar lawsuits. The points of those original pieces remain the same. In fact, I debated even writing about this new development simply because I didn't want to repeat myself. However, this time, the situation is stripped of the other considerations that put CBS/Paramount on the more solid footing it had with Axanar, and the backlash this is inspiring is what I want to address. Simply because people are so determined to turn what was the product of benevolence into a right, and it can spell big big trouble if they get their way.

This latest skirmish started about two years ago. A fellow known only as Scragnog decided to use the Unreal Engine to create a virtual reality model of the Enterprise D from Star Trek -- The Next Generation. They officially dubbed it Stage Nine, which was the location on the Desilu Studios lot where the shipboard sets for the original Star Trek and for Star Trek Phase II were built. The project has slowly worked its way through, with people contributing and helping. There were builds for Windows, Mac, Linux, and even the current gen of VR headsets. From the beginning, it was emphasized that it was a fan project made without any money being charged and nobody being paid a dime for their work. It was a true labor of love.

Although Scragnog and the rest were aware that things could come to an end in a heartbeat.

The shoe dropped a couple of weeks ago when CBS/Paramount sent the Stage Nine crew a Cease And Desist order. Scragnog attempted to reach out about maybe making Stage Nine an official project in order to preserve it, but the only response they got to their inquiry was another Cease And Desist. CBS/Paramount weren't interested in discussion, so Scragnog pulled the plug on the project.

(Side note: if you want to see it but didn't download it, there are lots of "helpful" people putting the previous nine builds up on torrents. This becomes a trust issue, as you are downloading and installing software from people you don't know and don't know if they've slipped some fun little viruses and trojans into what you are installing. Only take what you can handle, and always know your dealer.)

Now, going back to the Axanar debacle, what makes this different to the point where the fandom is overwhelmingly in favor of Stage Nine? Well, the primary difference is that Stage Nine was just a ragtag group making the project. Axanar used the crowdfunded money to set up and incorporate an actual production studio that could be used for other things once Axanar was done. The folks behind Axanar could be rightly suspected of trying to piggyback off of Star Trek to create their own work, the "payment" coming in the form of the logistics for other projects being handled under the fan film umbrella. But Stage Nine had no such cheating, prompting people to wonder why.

There has been some speculation that CBS/Paramount did this because of their game Star Trek Bridge Crew, released by Ubisoft. They recently released DLC of the Enterprise D, so maybe they were worried that the fan project looked a little too good compared to their own project. In other words, they wouldn't have cared if it looked cheap and amateurish. But a professional quality thing that people could get for free instead of forking over cash for the same experience through official channels? No, that had to be stopped. I'm not sure if that's true or not (that was also part of the speculation behind their attacks on Axanar, as Star Trek Discovery was being planned for about the same time initially). Just saying that is the dominant theory.

Boss rush -- fan works are not Fair Use. They are still copyright and trademark violations. THEY ARE STILL ILLEGAL. They can only exist if the rights holders allow them to exist. Rights holders are not bound by precedent. They can be as generous, stingy, selective, and/or hypocritical about what they allow and what they don't as they want. They can change their minds, and something that was allowed before can be shut down in the future. Fan works exist under a benevolent dictatorship as long as the rights holders decline to press charges. THE FANS ARE OWED NOTHING. Yes, there are individuals who are cool with fan creations -- David Bowie, for example, was fine with people remixing and mashing up his own music, all he asked was that they send the results to him so he could hear what people were doing with his art. But just because some people have no problem with it doesn't mean everybody will react that way, and they are within their rights to make people stop. So now people are complaining about the "antiquated" copyright laws and how they need to be updated to allow genuine non-profit labors of love to exist. And CBS/Paramount is being held up as the Big Bad.

I've always been leery of making fan works. I've done fan works myself just for fun, as my Doctor Whooves comics that used to run on Bleeding Cool will attest. But there comes a point where you come to a realization. You go, "I'm working as an unpaid volunteer, creating something I will never own the rights to, for something I will never own the rights to, to make the rights holders look great and improve their reputation, while I languish in obscurity, and my reward for this is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!" Yeah, sounds great, sign me up.

At that point, you might as well make some changes so that it stands on its own, becomes yours, and not only can you now do what you want with it without worrying about the original rights holders trying to shut you down for creating confusion in the marketplace, but you can go off in other directions that the current creative staff are not going in and have no interest in going in. I'm sorry, but The Orville, with its undercurrent of hope for the future of humanity, is more Star Trek than Star Trek currently is. And Seth McFarlane can ignore the darker, edgier, trendier vibe that CBS/Paramount feel Trek needs nowadays. All he had to do was differentiate it enough from Trek to stay out of legal trouble. Galaxy Quest is a similar tale, ostensibly a satire and parody of Star Trek that got its own comic book and TV development deals because it is different enough that no one can stop them.

Which brings me to, as Monty Python would say, the fulcrum of my gist. People want copyright laws changed to allow non-profit fan works to exist. But that begs the obvious question, what if the fan work is actually detrimental to the original work?

And we saw this recently, with Elsagate. For those that came in late, Elsagate was a bunch of people who had figured out how to game the YouTube algorithms and get adult content recommended and featured to viewers with Age Restrictions turned on, and took advantage of YouTube's rampant disinterest to do. Videos typically featured Elsa from Frozen, the Joker, and Spider-Man doing some really weird and disturbing stuff, such as a live action re-enactment of the fan-made Flash game where you try to impregnate Elsa or perform dental surgery on her, fart fetish videos, pedophilia, and other things. I should note that many of the channels existed for years, dating back to 2014, and it wasn't until November 2017 that YouTube did something about it, and only after Joe Rogan, B.o.B., and the New York Times started ringing the alarm bell.

Now, some of you may be thinking, "Anyone who thinks that sort of thing is official is stupid and deserves to be laughed at, don't punish us for their actions." But the fact is, people can be fooled, even those that know just about everything. Longtime fans are aware of the Sailor Moon fan game I made for the Atari 2600. I put it on a cart to get as many signatures on it as possible. And every convention I've gone to, there has been at least one person who sees me with the game and box and flips out, wondering what it is, where I got it, and how did they not know it existed. And these are people who can practically recite the entire production timeline of Sailor Moon, people who are constantly on the lookout for bootleg merch to get it stopped. It should be a no-brainer, but what I came up with so shocks and amazes them that they lose the plot and think it's real. Doesn't matter how knowledgable they are, people can still be fooled.

No, not all fans will think of making questionable and disturbing projects, they just want to play in the sandbox for a little while, and put the toys back the way they found them. But lots of them don't. And we see companies ceding control of their properties to the fandom and the problems it can cause. One need look no further than the My Little Pony -- Friendship Is Magic fandom for proof of this. The show has actually either canonized or suggested things are canon that the fandom has been promoting for years, from character relationships to their personalities. Even the overall narrative is no longer concerned with Twilight Sparkle learning about life and friendship and slice-of-life events, but examining and furthering it's own mythos. The show is significantly different from Faust's original creation (for example, Rarity is no longer an artistic diva, she's now just an arrogant bitch). This is a depiction found frequently in fanfics (its even worse in the IDW comic, which seems to go out of its way to favor fanon over the official source material). It has created an insular fandom that is easy to sell to, but a general audience is left out because, well, that wasn't what they were watching the show for.

So what happens? We've already seen how people love to write and read slashfic, as sites like fan-fiction.net and WWoEC attest. What if someone decides to make, say, a fetish film but use the "non-profit fan work" as a shield? At the moment, the state of copyright laws keeps such things to the fringes, where such things have to be distanced from the source material in order to exist. But creating an exception for non-profit fan works can lead to a lot of questionable material, and we've seen time and again that fan material can take on a life of its own and overshadow the original. Leaving rights holders having to explain that this isn't part of the official canon instead of the creators of the fan work explaining it isn't official shifts the burden unfairly.

Would I like to see companies be more lenient and accepting of fan works? Sure. But the changes people are demanding to copyright law aren't the way to do it. The law needs to exist for the protection of all, not the protection of some at the expense of others. Is it sad that CBS/Paramount shut down Stage Nine? Sure. But once again, they had every right to. As Carl Spackler says in Caddyshack, "We can do that....we don't even have to have a reason..." But they owe us no explanation, they owe us no allowance to make things in the first place. Bad as that is, the alternative is worse. No matter how warped you think humanity is, it's always worse than you think.

Some Days....

"Complete instructions for an Ariel The Little Mermaid costume, no sewing required!"

Abandon Hope Now And Avoid The Rush

Today marks the third time in my endeavors that I have turned down a cosplay commission. It was just too logistically difficult.

Pistol Princess? You're up next.




Grievous Bodily Harm

Went to church with my teacher to celebrate the Feast Of St. Michael.

Fill-in priest running the service.

First reading is about how anyone can be called to serve the Lord. Okay.

Gospel reading about how no one who does acts in Jesus' name should be driven out. Okay.

Then, the priest asks for prayers for "the President, the Senate, and the Supreme Court."

My teacher immediately elbows me in the side before I can open my mouth. I almost called her a bitch, but 1) she's my teacher and 2) we are still in church, and I respect the other congregants even if the priest can suck a rock out of my ass, so I kept quiet.

A religious order that has helped cover up and protect child predators while claiming to care about the unborn and is trying to guide its parishioners to uphold ethics and integrity while endorsing the most corrupt President in the history of Creation has no right to call itself any sort of moral authority.

"We don't put civilians at risk OR EVEN POTENTIALLY AT RISK to save ourselves. Sometimes that means we lose the battle, and sometimes our lives. But if you can't make THAT choice, then YOU. CAN'T. WEAR. THAT. UNIFORM."
-- Benjamin Sisko

It's A Gas Gas Gas

Nothing says, "My car is an authentic sports car and not a replica in any way, shape, or form," like filling up with regular unleaded.

Also, $7.31 to fill up?  I understand wanting to flex a little but...seriously?

Gary Friedrich, Rest In Peace


I was originally just going to let everyone else handle the tributes here. But part of Friedrich's history dovetails with a point that I'm probably going to be making in a column in the very very near future. So I might as well do this.

Gary Friedrich died two days ago at 75. He was a longtime comic writer who was best known as the creator of Marvel's infamous Ghost Rider. Ironically, such a simple act soon became a starting block for controversy. One that no one really saw coming and, ironically, made some of the debate about the character seem rather quaint.

Friedrich was born and raised in Jackson, Missouri. While growing up, he became friends with a fellow by the name of Roy Thomas. Call it luck, call it kismet, but whatever it was, Thomas eventually wound up as a staff writer at Marvel Comics, and in 1965, reached out to Friedrich, saying that comics were experiencing a rebirth and there might be work for him in New York. Friedrich jumped at the chance.

Friedrich's first published work was in a romance comic for Charlton Comics (believe it or not, romance comics were a great way to get your foot in the door at the time). From there, he wrote more genre fare until getting to Marvel and its Western line-up like Two-Gun Kid. He also wrote the Western-themed character Ghost Rider with Thomas. This wasn't the Ghost Rider everyone thinks of, he was more like Batman in the Old West (he's sometimes known as Phantom Rider nowadays). It only lasted six issues. But it sowed the seeds that would eventually become who we know.

Friedrich became known for his war stories that were featured in Sgt. Fury. This was when the Vietnam War was ramping up but still technically undeclared. Friedrich specialized in stories that weren't short on action, but carried an undercurrent of humanity, musing about the effects of war, even "just wars," and the effects they had on everyone, from the soldiers to the civilians. Friedrich won awards for his work and was a goto guy for quality work on a tight deadline.

And now, it gets tricky....

In 1971, Friedrich created a comic series called Hell-Rider that ran at Warren Publishing. Warren didn't bother with the Comics Code Authority, so its material could push the envelope. To that end, Hell-Rider was Brick Reese, a Vietnam veteran who was a martial arts master and had a motorcycle with a flamethrower. It lasted for two issues, with the planned third never seeing publication.

Cut to the following year. Marvel Comics debuts a new title called Ghost Rider, starring the Spirit Of Vengeance we all know. How exactly the character came about is unclear -- Roy Thomas, Mike Ploog, and Friedrich all had their own Rashamon-style stories about who exactly did what. Friedrich eventually left comics, content to go around the convention circuit, selling prints and identifying as the creator of Ghost Rider. But then Marvel got into financial trouble and started selling spin-off media rights to raise fast cash. Friedrich noticed this, and was watching closely. See, the whole "work-for-hire" thing is a house of cards that needs everyone to cooperate to maintain -- someone with enough money and drive can undo the whole thing. Companies don't want this, as it means a lot of money that would go to them (and has gone to them) would go to the rights holders or their estate. Basically, everyone knows it's bullshit, but it's legally enforceable bullshit. But Friedrich was confident in his position, believing the rights to the character reverted back to him in 2001. He said, "If Marvel gets in a position where they are gonna make a movie or make a lot of money off of it, I'm gonna sue them, and I probably will. … It was my idea."

It's here that I need to explain one of the dirty tricks of the comic book industry. Comic books didn't pay well, so people were desperate for money (Gene Colan, the legendary Daredevil artist, had to draw four books a month just to provide for his family and sometimes had to take speed to get the work done). Part of how this was done was the paychecks. You know how you have to sign the back of a check to cash it, right? Well, publishers like Marvel put a little fine print message in the spot saying that, by signing this check, you were surrendering all rights to what you were being paid for. Basically, it was a quitclaim deed, and if you didn't sign it, you didn't get paid because the check couldn't be cashed without you signing it. (The only person I know of who successfully beat this was Jim Steranko, the Madman Of Comics, resulting in a Spider-Man story that can never be republished. But that's a story for another day.) And since most people in the comic industry needed their paychecks, they had no choice to go along with it. This will factor in later.

And so came 2007, with the release of the Nicolas Cage movie Ghost Rider. And Friedrich sued. Specifically, he sued Marvel Enterprises, Sony Pictures, Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures, Relativity Media, Crystal Sky Pictures, Michael DeLuca Productions, Hasbro and Take-Two Interactive. He alleged copyright violation through a "joint venture and conspiracy". It went to trial in 2011.

The results of the trial were crushing. Marvel prevailed on all but one count. U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled that Friedrich gave up any ownership claim when he signed the checks I mentioned above.

In response to this, Marvel countersued, but dropped it when Friedrich agreed to pay $17,000 in damages (the amount determined he had gotten from selling his Ghost Rider stuff at conventions) and to no longer sell Ghost Rider merch or identify himself as the creator of Ghost Rider for financial gain. Well, for the most part -- Friedrich was still allowed to sell his autograph on officially licensed (read that: Marvel gets a cut) Ghost Rider merch.

By now, Marvel was owned by Disney. And people were fuming about this. $17K was pocket change to a Disney company, and here was a Disney subsidiary putting the squeeze on a guy with no money. The money wouldn't even cover lawyers' fees. It was denounced as a move just to spite Friedrich and jam it up his ass. Fundraisers were held to help pay off Friedrich's debt, with people like Neal Adams and Nick Powell turning in sketches to sell on eBay and dig Friedrich out. Fortunately, they succeeded, so Friedrich didn't lose his house or anything. Friedrich, meanwhile, had appealed the ruling. In 2013, Judge Denny Chin overturned the original decision. He called the contract language for the quitclaim "ambiguous" and sent the case back to trial. A couple of months before the trial was to go down, Marvel and Friedrich announced they had reached a settlement and that was that. Friedrich was free to resume his convention circuit work.

Well, sort of.

Friedrich had Parkinson's disease, resulting in his eventual loss of hearing. It eventually took his life a couple of days ago.

Friedrich had a rough scare a few years ago, being bullied in a show of force, but he managed to survive it. Rest easy.
...in order for something to become public domain, the creator of the work has to have been dead for 70 years. But the Bible is consider public domain, even though God still exists. Could God potentially sue, not only for royalties, but likeness rights? (And to those who say the books of the Bible were written by people, they transcribed the Word Of God. Moses et al. were WORK FOR HIRE, MUTHAHFUGGAHS!!!!)

WHOOPS! IGN Ran A Plagiarized Review!

One thing about me that has been constant in my writing career is my respect for my editors. They have a very thankless job, trying to not only coordinate talent and produce work, but acting as the last line of defense against legal problems. This has only gotten harder in recent years. The sheer amount of content on the Internet, combined with the obscurity of most of it, makes verifying original work more of a dice roll than an actual skill.

It doesn't help that so much "talent" searches the backwaters of the Internet looking for things they can boost and claim as their own. Everyone has their own motivations and justifications. Some have deadline pressures. Some are just intimidated and want something that knocks it out of the park. Some are concerned about not delivering as promised and are afraid the editor won't give them more assignments. The list goes on and on.

Whatever it is, plagiarism has become big. Really big. And there's this subtle approval on the part of those who've succeeded. Some people are skimming stories off of online sites like Literotica and self-publishing them, claiming themselves as the creator. Online reviewers will often search Reddit and Twitter to skim comments to build into a whole article, remixing instead of composing, if you will. There's a popular YouTube video game reviewer who, when he started out, stole portions of his reviews from an online writer (I know, because I was a fan of said online writer, and recognized it immediately). There's a comic book reviewer who did the same thing. Even video makers are stealing from other video makers, with people like Grade A Under A and Jim Sterling seeing almost everything they do, from their words to what they emphasize, get copied by others passing off the work as their own. Depending on who and what is involved, the theft can go on for years before being discovered.

But sometimes, it happens almost instantly. And it gets a lot of people in a lot of trouble.

The first person showing up to this sock hop is a fellow by the name of Alex Kane, who runs a YouTube channel called Boomstick Gaming. He started it as a hobby back in 2006, but hasn't been able to take it full time. He's set up a Patreon, but it's not really going anywhere. He was laid off from his regular job six months ago, and is just trying to find a way to survive and keep his channel from fading into the white noise.

On July 24, 2018, Alex uploaded a video review of a game called Dead Cells, available since 2017 through Steam for the PC and being ported to various other platforms. His video gave an excellent, in-depth analysis of the game, praising its strengths and noting its weaknesses. From the standpoint of reviews, Alex did a fantastic job.

And now, we get to the party pooper. IGN is a video game news and review site, one of the granddaddies of the field that helped make video game print magazines obsolete. As I mentioned, Dead Cells is being ported, and one platform is the Nintendo Switch. IGN wanted video footage and a review of it to put up on their site. And for that, they turned to the editor of their Nintendo division, one Filip Miucin, to get the job done.

Miucin completed the video and proudly uploaded it on August 6, 2018. He mentioned that it was the first video he had edited, so he was really excited. He also posted 21 minutes of gameplay, and awarded the game a 9.7. Everything was looking just fine....

...except for one little problem. See, Alex is a fan of IGN and frequents the site. And when he clicked on the Dead Cells video review IGN posted, he discovered that significant portions of the script for Miucin's review were copied from Alex's own video.

(SIDEBAR: As I've said, a lot of sites play fast and loose with plagiarism nowadays, but I don't feel this act was dictated by IGN themselves. I believe they were under pressure for a timely article and handed it off to Miucin, figuring, as an editor, he knew the rules and they could trust him. Please do not pin this on IGN without some real evidence.)

Alex got to work, and that day, posted a video comparing the two videos. And the results are pretty damning. Not only was the length almost identical between the two (Alex's was 4:04, Miucin's was 3:45), but there are whole sections and sequences that are identical. Barring the existence of the Infinite Improbability Drive, there's no way this is coincidental. Miucin copied Alex's work and passed it off as his own.

Alex was shocked and wondered what he should do. His Twitter post about it with the link to his YouTube video got signal boosted by people like Mark Kern, the former Vanilla Team leader for World Of Warcraft. While debate was going on about whether or not Alex could potentially copyright strike the video, IGN took it down before the day was over. In its place was this message from the IGN editorial board:

"As a group of writers and creators who value our own work and that of others in our field, the editorial staff of IGN takes plagiarism very seriously. In light of concerns that have been raised about our Dead Cells review, we’ve removed it for the time being and are investigating."

Forbes reached out to Alex to get his take. I have to say, Alex is a lot more Zen and understanding about this whole thing than I would have been, and my hat is off to him for it. Alex said:

"At this time I have not been contacted back by IGN, but I would like to be cited, collaborated with, and compensated for the healthy ad revenue they pulled in on both their written review and video review. As for the author Filip, this was his first video review for IGN and it is slightly understandable to seek knowledge from someone who has done multiple reviews before, but it should not have been replicated in this manner. I foster no ill will towards Filip and do not encourage firing of this gentleman because I have been unemployed (business closure) for 6 months now and would not wish this burden on anyone."

Unfortunately, Alex's mercy towards Miucin might not come to pass. If IGN concludes that Miucin did copy Alex's work, then Miucin's career is over. No one will want to hire, as an editor or a writer, someone who so blatantly plagiarized someone's work and got nailed for it. Doing so means they could be opening themselves up for liability if the person or entity copied from isn't as chill about it as Alex is. No action has been taken as of this writing. But it's hard to see any other outcome for this, and Miucin's fate is sealed. A guy living the dream of writing about video games, and whatever his reasons (as Alex pointed out, Miucin said it was his first edited video, so it's possible the guy just panicked), the dreaming is done. And deserved or not, IGN is going to take this one on the chin.

Honesty is the best policy. If not because it is the right thing to do, then just because of all the headaches it can spare you when things go sidewise. Because they can, and they do.
Just for the hell of it, I named my new mannequin "Jane." Who understands why?

Cheap Joke Ahoy, Cap'n

So, now that I'm making cosplay, I decided that one thing that might be useful is a mannequin.  So I headed over to Carson's, figuring that, since they are going out of business, I might be able to score one on the cheap there.

So, a female mannequin that is roughly a Size 12 but is a full 6 feet tall, is $150.

Just the body, arms, and legs, but no head, is $125.

So apparently, it's $25, not $50, if you want a little head.

Adjust your rates accordingly.

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