Where no director should have gone...

I saw Star Trek (the movie) yesterday, and I feel compelled to write about the film. If I don't write about the film, I'll regret it in the future and time-warp back to today to write about the film. And by time-warping back, I will have changed the dynamics of my future, thereby creating an alternate reality. Whoops - spoiler alert!

Back to reality. And by 'reality', I mean this reality. (I can't lay off the alternate reality jokes!) So what did I think of the film?

Not much at all, actually. It wasn't slam-dunk horrible, but I hope I never see it again.

I was impressed by the caliber of acting, even if some of the lines were cringeworthy ("My ex-wife got the planet in the divorce. I have nothing left except my bones.") Chris Pike was spot-on as Kirk, especially when it came to the signature flailing-arms run. Zachary Quinto was fantastic as Spock, although the resemblance to young Nimoy was a bit unsettling. Same goes for the rest of the Enterprise Crew, with the possible exception of Zoe Saldana as Nyota, for the reason that her character was rather one-dimensional and underdeveloped, as female characters often are in movies.

That being said, I would have liked to see more of a focus on Treknobabble in the movie.

The way Star Trek TOS positioned it, space was a vast expanse of nothingness in which matter was more precious than gold. Yes, there were many planets and ships to engage the crew members' senses, but despite the action, the Enterprise crew members could not completely dissociate themselves from the dark void surrounding the ship. It was this juxtaposition of action and nothingness that created some of the more poignant moments of the series where such issues as free will versus fate, faith versus reason, compassion versus justice were given free reign.

To see space transformed into a circus of armadas and admirals was perhaps inevitable. This is Hollywood, land of the 30 second attention span, after all. The screenwriters themselves admitted that their focus was on creating an action-packed thriller attractive to a mainstream audience because, you know, normal people don't understand pseudoscience and Big Ideas. Without a solid storyline, however, this Star Trek is doomed to obsolescence; there's a reason why the original Star Trek series still inspires a legion of fans, and it has nothing to do with fancy graphics and pretty faces.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to yesterday and avoid watching a certain film...


Ruminations on intellectual property law

I want to write a bit about a book on intellectual property law I stumbled across, and kudos to anyone who isn't bored by the end of the post (assuming you make it so far). Entitled Free Culture, the book was written by Lawrence Lessig, a renowned intellectual property scholar who has argued notable copyright cases (e.g. Eldred v. Ashcroft) in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Free Culture provides a clear and well-reasoned argument against taking a one-sided view of U.S. intellectual property (specifically, copyright) doctrine. Lessig carefully treads a legal minefield and persuasively argues that current copyright law occupies an extreme favoring the creative content providers.

What I found especially refreshing about Lessig's book is that he takes the time to explain why we should care whether our copyright regime favors content providers. For Lessig, it's not as simple as saying "Copyright enriches corporations; therefore, copyright is bad". Lessig does not shy away from discussing the effects of legislation such as the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and, for an issue as controversial as copyright law, he is surprisingly effective at avoiding partisan polemic.

It is frustrating to encounter news stories that place the copyright debate at one of two extremes: You either support property rights (and by extension, copyright law as it stands today), or you support freedom of culture. I was unsurprised that Lessig made it clear that supporting a free culture does not necessitate dropping all property rights, as some copyright advocates claim. I was, however, surprised at how well-versed Lessig is with regard to the other extreme of copyright law: that of allowing unrestricted access to creative content, whether this access is for commercial or private use. Lessig is careful to warn of the pitfalls of a free-for-all copyright regime.

Although I find the book to be careless with some of its analogies. (e.g. at one point Lessig adopts the specious comparison of libraries with p2p software), I would love to see Free Culture more widely distributed to the legislators tasked with copyright reform. Lessig knows his stuff, and it's a shame that our legislators continue to pass harsher copyright laws without considering the impact of these laws on our culture.