Why explain when you can invent your own caption?


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My new pinball

hurricane pinball

Coming along great. Just rewired a new IDC connector to replace the burnt out one for the GI lights. Refurbishing the playfield. Fixed a busted ball popper in “the juggler”. In really solid shape to begin with though. A lucky find. And by lucky, I mean a year of looking on craigslist.

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Destiny: Rise of Iron review

Note: This was written for a popular video game site that declined to publish it because of its negative tone. Irony!

It’s a strange time to be a video game reviewer. For many years when I was a writer and editor for Game Revolution, we prided ourselves on our independent ownership. Our watchword was objectivity, and we occasionally got into some messy conflicts with video game publishers. We also always tried to consider each game with the perspective that we had bought it with our own money, even though we usually had not, because games are not cheap.

Smash cut to a decade later, and we’ve had several fiascoes shake up the industry. Gamespot famously changed a review score and fired an editor because of advertising money. Most recently, Warner Bros paid a large fine to the FCC for failing to disclose that they paid “influential” gamers (including the lovable asshat PewDiePie) to say good things, write good reviews, and otherwise promote the game Shadows of Mordor. (The fact that Shadows of Mordor was actually really good has no bearing on how sleazy that is. Also, where was my money, WB?)

The problem of free merchandise in exchange for reviews on Amazon has gotten so bad that an entire website, reviewmeta.com, was created to highlight and fix the problem. They proved mathematically that people who got free stuff rated it better. Science! In response, Amazon has just this month banned vendors from sending out review samples in exchange for reviews.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “This Duke guy sure is a long-winded bastard. I really came here to read about Destiny: Rise of Iron,” so here is my point: Activision was VERY VERY very clear, that I needed to tell you in writing that they gave me a FREE COPY of the game for review purposes. Without that, I would have had to fork over $30 for the expansion.

Is this game worth $30? No, not really.

Rise of Iron takes us right back to those first two, early, thin Destiny expansions. Let’s go down the checklist: New classes or abilities? None. New level cap? Nope. Re-used game areas? Check. Re-skinned enemies? You-betcha. Making previous content you bought pointless? Not a problem. More keys, tokens and other stuff clogging up the bad inventory system? Done, done, and done.

People who are fans of the occasional Iron Banner tournaments that crop up in-game will be pleased that this part of the Destiny lore has been more fully fleshed out. In the olden days, there were the Iron Lords who were a bit like Guardians, but they messed about with ancient biotechnology and managed to get themselves all killed. Now some of the Fallen have found one of those technologies, SIVA, and are up to no good. They modify their own bodies and genes with SIVA to become more powerful, reminiscent of Bioshock’s Splicers. So much so, in fact, they are even called Splicers.

Billed as a universe-destroying technology, SIVA will take you about 2-3 hours to defeat, which is pretty anti-climactic. Especially since the final fight is just a simplistic button-masher. That leaves you with a new patrol zone, the plaguelands, which has a public event area called the Archon’s Forge, which is similar to the Court of Oryx from The Taken King. At the time of this writing, however, I have yet to find any of the public there, which makes me think the Destiny audience is starting to get spread pretty thin. Next up is a new PVP mode “Supremacy” which requires your team to collect trophy “crests” from the dead for kills to count; it’s not much of an addition. Vehicles have also returned to some PVP matches, which I really like.

Then there is the long term grind: slowly watching your light numbers slowly go up to the new maximum of 385 if you really must. At the end of a recent game session with a friend, I remarked that after 3 hours of replaying areas I’ve seen a dozen times before, my reward was seeing one number go up by 4.

I have not done the raid yet, because the time commitment of the grind, not to mention the raid itself, just isn’t possible for anyone who isn’t dedicating their life to a single game. Which also highlights one of Destiny’s continued glaring problems: the lack of matchmaking for a number of game modes, which means you have to find 5 more fanatics that you can organize a half-day session with. Most of my friends who play Destiny dropped out long ago as the buy-in crept over $100 and is now closing in on $200. Activision also added a new premium currency, and lots more things to buy via microtransactions, Including Sparrows and the coveted Iron Banner armor. Cha-ching.

Did I mention that Activision provided me with a free copy? They did.

Destiny continues to be a game that, though its design decisions, continues to be a difficult game for more casual players to get into. At $10, I might be able to recommend Rise of Iron, but at $30 there’s just not enough here. Take $20 of your game money and buy the brilliant new game Inside instead. Then you’ll have $10 left over to buy me something nice. I promise to review it.

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Picture PC

I’m not quite finished with the build yet, but my new PC is running great.hanging PC

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Turkey Attack

Was out hiking and an angry wild Tom decided to defend his territory.

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Cosmos. Neil Tyson. Watch it because you brain will reward you. (The Carl Sagan version is also excellent.) http://www.cosmosontv.com/

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The best thing ever heard on NPR

Barry Sonnenfeld on Wait! Wait! or in this case, maybe Wait! WHAT?

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Very Cool (Hah!) Ice Storm

I was once in Blankenese, Germany when an ice storm hit and covered the whole town. You could barely walk, much less drive, which my friend tried to do and put his BMW into a stone wall (with me in the passenger seat).

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This Mickey Mouse Law

Stay with me for a minute.

There is a new free app in the Apple app store called Disney Action!™ . Using your iPhone camera, it allows you to select one of a number of animated Disney characters, such as Mr. Incredible or Captain Jack Sparrow, and if you aim the camera right, and get the timing right, you make a cute little video where they appear to interact with your friends and the environment. Then, of course, you can share those videos on Facebook or YouTube.

Why should I care? Let me put it this way: Steven Spielberg can now make a movie, albeit a limited one, where he takes Disney characters, puts them in the setting of his choice, decides how they behave, and then publish that movie to a worldwide audience.

He can do this all without previously getting Disney’s permission, or paying a penny in royalties or fees. Disney has given Steven, and every iPhone user in the world, not only their permission, but an explicit license to do so. The only difference is the size of the screen.

If you don’t see the ramifications of what that says about the deeply broken and antiquated nature of U.S. Copyright law, it’s because you are reading this article on pastebin.com. The fact that this is Disney we are talking about makes it even more unbelievable, as they have historically been one of the fiercest defenders of intellectual property in the world (of Disney!).

In 1988, Congress passed the Copyright Term Extension Act, which essentially extended the life of all copyrights by 20 years. It was officially named the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, in honor of the late congressman, who had supported a similar bill. However, colloquially, it was known as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.

Disney lobbied hard for this bill, and for good reason: Mickey Mouse was about to pass into the public domain. His 75 years were nearly up. “Can you imagine?” wailed the lobbyists, “If anyone can use Mickey, you’ll have Mickey Mouse porn and Mickey Mouse brand whisky! Won’t somebody please think of the children?”

That was a good argument in 1988, and it’s still a pretty good argument today. Disney has continually used Mickey since his initial appearance in the animated short Steamboat Willie.  He’s the brand of the whole Disney company, he’s one of the most recognized figures in the world, and he stands for something, namely wholesome family entertainment.

The problem is that the 1988 bill extends the 1976 copyright law that was written before widespread adoption of the personal computer or cassette tape, long before cable TV and the VCR, and just forget about DVRs, MP3 players and, the white elephant in the room, The Internet.

The Copyright Act of 1976 is a dinosaur, barely clinging to relevance. It thrashes around, trying to treat all media the same way, when they are clearly very different. If our friend Steven Spielberg wanted to show his home made Incredibles movie in a movie theater, instead of on YouTube, he’d never be sold the rights, or rather, since Pixar is a business, they’d be priced incredibly high. Is someone in this movie wearing a hat with a Nike logo on it? Call the lawyers, pay Nike their licensing fee, and be damn sure the Nike hat will be on the hero, not the villain.

The internet changes everything, and the amazing thing is Disney seems to get it. They have grasped what the RIAA and the MPAA and Getty Images haven’t yet. “Sure!” they say. Take our characters and do what you want with them and share them with your friends. Show the world. Want to make video with Buzz Lightyear instead of Mr. Incredible? Why not? Who needs lawyers and cease and desist letters? 99 cents in the App Store instead please.

Do a search on YouTube for Disney or Mickey Mouse or even the venerable Steamboat Willie, and you’ll see thousands of people hosting full length Disney cartoons. The Disney company clearly stopped sending takedown notices to YouTube years ago. Don’t get me wrong, put the full version of Toy Story 3 on your website and you’ll meet some lawyers damn fast. However, Disney has clearly expanded their idea of the Fair Use doctrine to include, “Meh. It’s not hurting anyone.”

So what does it mean when the champion prizefighter for traditional copyright refuses to step into the ring? It means they figured out they can’t win, that they’re fighting a cloud, and you can’t punch out a cloud. So why not make friends with the cloud instead?

As for copyright law, there can be serious consequences for not vigorously defending your trademarks. Currently, if Disney did not go after Micky Mouse brand whiskey and shut them down, even with Mickey’s extended lifespan, they would run the risk of losing their rights to the Mouse. So now that they are not only abandoning most of the fight against the internet, they are actually encouraging sharing, this is a serious fork in the eye of traditional copyright.

Hopefully, this all means that change is in the near future, and a new, completely re-written copyright law will be written by saner, more modern heads. One can hope, anyway. The Copyright Act of 1976 was the replacement for the Copyright Act of 1909. So many modern advances in media – radio, movies, records, television – had come into mainstream America, the 1909 law was totally obsolete.

And the 1909 law? Yep, that was a replacement too, for a 1790 law. On updating that 1790 law, President Teddy Roosevelt wrote:

“Our copyright laws urgently need revision. They are imperfect in definition, confused and inconsistent in expression; they omit provision for many articles which, under modern reproductive processes, are entitled to protection; they impose hardships upon the copyright proprietor which are not essential to the fair protection of the public; they are difficult for the courts to interpret and impossible for the Copyright Office to administer with satisfaction to the public.”

Well said, Sir. Now don’t get me started on patent law.

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I am the Duke Ferris you are looking for.

There is (almost) only one. As I abandoned Facebook as a fool’s wasteland, I will (try to)  start updating here so that it does not interfere with the lives of the people who are not interested, which is almost everyone on Earth.

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