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T-Mobile's Binge On is a Net Neutrality violation. Which is Net Neutrality's fatal flaw

Samsung has a deal where if you buy a 4K Samsung TV, you get a free Samsung Galaxy 6. While I'm not in the market for a 4K TV of any brand nor particularly interested in a Galaxy 6, this is considered a good thing for the customer. On a much smaller stage, this past summer, the local grocery store offered a tub of free Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream with purchase of some frozen pizzas (and yes, I took advantage of the deal, the pizza was OK but the ice cream was great).

Apparently, I conspired to a violation of Ice Cream Neutrality, the grocery store picking winners and losers in the ice cream market. Except nobody talks about Ice Cream Neutrality. And what's considered acceptable behavior in every other market, make customers happy and thus loyal by giving them FREE STUFF, is an attempt to control the Internet.

There are some potential risks of bad behavior by ISPs that justify many parts of Net Neutrality regulation. ISPs should NOT be allowed to block or artificially slow down traffic to sites they don't like or are in competition with services they provide. And if they get in bed with one provider, maybe that's iffy (really iffy there's any connection between that provider and the ISP).

But what T-Mobile has done with their music products and now video is provide free access to all the major players without counting against the monthly data limit. Does this put Joe's Video Shoppe at a disadvantage? Maybe. But they're already at a great disadvantage. And it's not like people only use one service. So for the three T-Mobile customers who do use Joe's Video Shoppe, they haven't been charged for the bandwidth used watching Netflix and Amazon Prime so it's easier to decide to stream stuff from Joe's Video Shoppe because you have more room.

More importantly - T-Mobile is providing FREE STUFF. Customers usually like regulations because they benefit them directly. They get protected from faulty stuff sold to them, they make sure prices are properly labelled, etc. (Yes, there are arguments that some regulations make things worse, make prices go up, etc. - but that's a side issue.) If those who are arguing that what T-Mobile does is a violation of Net Neutrality and the FCC must stop them get their way, the public is going to ask "what are we getting out of this? And legitimately so.


Posted on November 11, 2015, 12:42 am

Donald Brown

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Why I don't want sequels to movies I love like Inside Out

Just rewatched Inside Out. It has become my favorite Pixar movie. And one I pray will never get a sequel. Why?

I read something once, I think it was from David Gerrole, two basic rules of story-telling. The first is that it must be the most important story ever in the main character's life (or why are you telling THIS story instead of the other one?). The second is that there always has to be a lesson to be learned. There's no place like home, value you're friends, a hero is someone who keeps people safe. It doesn't HAVE to be learned, that's one thing that makes many tales into tragedies, but we as the audience should see someone not learning it.

Obviously these can't be taken as absolutes or as the only rules that matter. As I recall, he was pointing out how episodic TV like Star Trek had to break it (with many stories each season, and they could be aired in any order so characters had to end pretty much where they were). But when I look at the movies and books I love most, there's a lot of truth in it.

Sometimes, books are written as series (the Harry Potter series is one story, broken up into episodes). And sometimes, you get a great sequel by changing the focus of the story. (The Godfather Part II is largely the story of the son, and how it differs.) And sometimes, you can just break the rules and do great stuff.

But still, they aren't bad rules. And Inside Out is a great example. SPOILERS BELOW.

The main character of the movie is Joy, the main emotion of a girl named Riley. There's also Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, but it's pretty much accepted that Joy is in charge, and a good day is when the memories are mostly joyful. A bad day is when Sadness gets near the memories or the console and Riley is sad.

Things go badly wrong, Joy and Sadness are sucked out of Headquarters with the core memories that make up Riley's personality, and the movie is mostly about the struggle to get back there (plus the problems that the other emotions have trying to run the show and the effect on Riley's life). In the process, Joy realizes that she's hurting, not helping Riley by keeping sadness locked away and not allowing her to work through the times she's unhappy. When Joy and Sadness return to Headquarters, she has Sadness take control, letting Riley cry out her troubles and have her parents see her unhappy and help her rather than relying on Riley to cheer everything up. Moving on, they now have a control where all emotions have a role to play, and the memories developed have twinges of multiple emotions.

It was a really great movie, the kind Pixar used to do but slipped a bit recently. It's also been financially successful and a critical hit. So I'm sure that Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, is thinking "sequel!"

Don't do it, Bob, don't do it.

This clearly was Joy and Sadness's most important story, that journey back. In the world they've created, the emotions never leave HQ, it's unheard of. So a story of another trip out just isn't reasonable. There will never be another story as big as this for the emotions. Yes, Riley will go on to bigger adventures, but Inside Out isn't about her except as the effect of the story that the emotions go through.

And more important - Joy has learned her lesson. She will want Riley to be happy and give her lots of happy memories, but she knows now that it's more complicated than that, that the other emotions have a role to play in Riley's development and mental health. To do a new story where she's unlearned that lesson, well, that's just going to make a very weak sequel.

That's not to say that I won't enjoy little shorts, like "Riley's First Date?", they can be short and cute and just for fun. Just no sequel.

BTW, I have very similar concerns about a sequel to The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible had to learn about living in the present, caring for his family and people around him. That's what lifted it from Just Another Superhero movie (and I say that as someone who often likes Just Another Superhero movie). Not sure where to go with a sequel, and apparently that question is what has delayed it. I trust Brad Byrd when he says that they got the right story for the sequel, but it's why I'm glad they did let it go so long.

Posted on November 7, 2015, 6:50 pm

Donald Brown

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Dear Sigmund - Man, I've missed M*A*S*H

Was flipping through channels, and happened upon an old rerun of M*A*S*H. The episode was Dear Sigmund, where psychiatrist Sidney Freedman deals with depression by a visit to the 4077 MASH unit. I'd forgotten how good they mixed comedy and drama in 30 minutes.

I'm not sure I buy it, though, someone able to deal with depression by visiting the 4077. No, it's not clinical depression, it's experiential, so other experiences and ways of thinking can help one get out of it.  But as someone in a situation that's sometimes not so good, not sure experiencing people deal with it will help.

But don't overthink it. If you haven't seen it for a while, apparently it's on YouTube. Definitely worth a rewatch.

Posted on November 5, 2015, 10:02 pm

Donald Brown

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Going back to the drawing board

I've mentioned before I'm designing a board game, thought I had a pretty good design. But got a real surprise in the most rigorous playtest yet. The feeling of risk that I'd thought was there, they weren't feeling it at all.

Gremlins In Space is meant to be a casual co-op game. So I wasn't expecting the players to be overly challenged. But still, with Gremlins appearing on board ship every turn, I thought there would be some sense of pressure. But they had it well in hand.

I think I may be going back to sabotage cards, but this time the gremlins are still there, causing the sabotage. Each turn, after the gremlins get zapped, they work on their sabotage. But how do I make it both challenging and yet not a losing proposition for casual players.

It's a bit dispiriting - I really thought I had it solid. Now, back several steps.

Posted on November 4, 2015, 7:40 pm

Donald Brown

#TheLibrarians are back for Season Two. And it's going to be great!

The Librarians is a series on TNT. Only ten episodes a season, and the season opener was a two-parter, so they have to make the best of each show.

They did. Oh boy did they ever. tl/dr version - this new series is FANTASTIC and I'm looking forward to see what happens next (and wishing there'd be more than 10 episodes in the season). Oh and it's not too soon to start wishing for Season Three.

If you don't know, it started with a made-for-TV movie, The Librarian and the Quest for the Spear, first aired in 2004. In it, Flynn Carson, played with wonderful geekiness by Noah Wylie (ER, Falling Skies, and he also was Steve Jobs in Pirates of Silicon Valley) is a perpetual student. He's earned 22 Ph.D.s and wants to earn more, but his professor kicks him out of school to go learn in the real world. He gets recruited by The Library, a secret organization under the New York Metropolitan Library. The Library is where all sorts of powerful magical artifacts are stored, protected from the outside world and vice versa. It's run by Judson (Bob Newhart at his deadpan best even when he kicks ass in a fight. Yes you read that right. Bob Newhart kicks ass in a fight) and Charlene (Jane Curtain also shining in her role). There is ever only one Librarian who goes out and stops magical threats and retrieves dangerous artifacts, and new Librarians are thrown into the deep end to see if they drown. They do get a guardian. Yes, the movie was more than a little cheesy and the special effects were more than a little cheap - but it was FUN!!! If you haven't seen Quest for the Spear, go get it and rent it. On iTunes, it's listed in with TV shows. It's also on Hulu if you have a subscription, and Amazon to rent/buy.

Two sequels were created, The Librarian: Return to King Soloman's Mines and The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalet. Both fun, though frankly didn't have the hold on me that Quest for the Spear had. There had been rumors that there might be a fourth movie someday, which would be nice, then the anouncement came of a series, The Librarians, starting last season.

In Season One, the main bad was Dulaque, played deliciously by Matt Frewer. Someone was killing the other potential candidates when Flynn became the Librarian. Three are saved - an art historian, a thief, and a mathematical genius with a brain tumor. A guardian is also recruited, against Flynn's wishes. To keep the contents of the Library out of the hands of the Serpeant Brotherhood, Charlene and Judson break the Library's connection to our world. Season one is about the three Librarians In Training going on adventures while being trained (and protected by the guardian) while Flynn is out there looking for a way to get the Library back (and while Noah Wylie is filming episodes of Falling Skies). Loved it, one of my favorites from last season, and was thrilled it got renewed.

Season Two premiered Sunday night, and it's off to a great start. This time, while the Library is back, it's not quite working right. Also, Prospero (yes, Shakespear's The Tempest's Prospero) is using the magic released into the world in Season One to seek power.

Going to get into some spoilers from here on. BEWARE! SPOILERS BELOW!

Good nerd action movies need a great villain to keep interesting. Chuck, a favorite of mine, had a great villain in Season Two with Chevy Chase, suffered with a weak villain played by Brandon Routh, and picked up with Timothy Dalton. The show runners behind The Librarians know this. Season One, Dulaque was great because he both enjoyed playing the villain and yet thought he was a hero - and once he was, he was actually Sir Lancelot of Camelot, out to restore the glory days. The keeper of the Annex of the Library, Jenkins (played by John Laroquette at his annoyed best) turns out to have been Galahad. Dulaque was defeated at the end of the Season One finale, but not necessarily destroyed, which makes me hopeful he'll be back. Alas, his faithful assistant Lamia, also lots of fun, won't be - Dulaque killed her to open the door to the Loom of Fate.

Season Two will focus on fictionals, fictional characters brought to life. Prospero's tale was told so often and with such fervor that he was made real on his own, others are summoned by Prospero. His assistant is Moriarty, and he's at best a reluctant assistant. I forsee fun things when Moriarty is able to turn the corners on Prospero. We've also seen Alice through the Looking Glass's Red Queen, and the book version of Frankenstein's Monster (which, if you didn't know, is NOT afraid of fire - but Flynn and Ezekial find other ways of dealing with him).

This is going to be a great fun ride coming up!

Posted on November 3, 2015, 6:18 pm

Donald Brown

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