Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Quest to Destroy Clean Reader

Lately my twitter feed has been filled with hate rather than the usual rainbows, bunnies, and the occasional Ewok cannibalism dance party. The cause being the release of an app called Clean Reader. The popular sentiment towards the app is "Fuck Clean Reader".

Why so much hate? Clean Reader is an app that edits the naughty words out of books. It makes it so the easily offended can enjoy reading without having to see the fuck shit bitch of it all. It embodies all the fundamentalist Christian values like no cursing, no killing, and denying proven scientific truths. It's all the things any respectable Republican could want except it doesn't give all the profits to the Koch brothers. Sounds like something even Glenn Beck could approve of.

The problem seems to be that they didn't get permission from the authors to edit their works. This has caused the biggest hissy fit I've seen since the insurance industry decided they didn't like the Affordable Healthcare Act. This is true. They didn't get the author's permission to make those edits, but do they really need that permission if it's for personal use? Do the works in question come pre-edited with clean versions, or does the app clean the e-book once the user applies that option? I'm not a lawyer, so I won't pretend that I know all of the legal implications involved.

I've seen authors in an uproar over censorship. The Clean Reader website compares it to making a custom order of food at a restaurant like ordering a cheeseburger without ketchup. If that's the case and these authors are the chefs making that burger, they would say "Fuck you I intended to have ketchup on that burger!" Some of the author responses to that comparison don't make sense. One author comparison was like ordering ketchup but without tomato in it. It's obviously not possible or would be very difficult to remove the tomato from the ketchup, but it is easy to remove the curse words from books. Otherwise this app probably wouldn't exist. Anyone can copy/paste a Kindle e-book into Microsoft Word and use the search/replace tool to make similar edits. I look at it like you order a cheeseburger then you scrape off the ketchup with a knife. Is the chef going to storm out of the kitchen and order you to eat the burger with the ketchup as he intended?

I've seen assertions that this is the first step in something much more sinister. We should all be very afraid. The first step is censorship, then banning books, then burning them, then wiping civilizations off the planet, and finally the One Direction apocalypse. Hold your horses Captain Kangaroo! There is a major difference here. This app gives people the choice of having the book censored for them. It's not a government mandated requirement. No one is forcing people to read the censored version of these books. It is merely a user option in the Clean Reader app. The Schutzstaffel is not going to bust in your door to confiscate and burn all your Garfield comics. You can continue to love lasagna and hate Mondays in peace.

This app adds a user option to censor books that they purchased or licensed to read. Once users have access to the content in a book, they are capable of doing whatever they want with it as long as it is for personal use. If they want to purchase a book and then use the pages to make paper airplanes, rather than read the words scribbled on them, they can. I doubt that is what the author intends for the reader to do with the work of art they had poured their blood sweat and tears into, but what can they do about it?  Why be so angry about something you have no control over? You might as well try to focus your efforts on making your poop not stink. Guys..  your poop is going to stink, get over it.

I'm not trying to say that author consent is not important, but users on the internet are going to do what they are going to do. It has been that way for as long as file sharing has been mainstream. You can't stop the flow of information. If the demand is there for something like this then people are going to find a way to get a clean version of the book out there one way or another. This is one of the lessons that has played out over and over again throughout the history of the internet. I think when Al Gore descended from the mountain this rule had been written on the stone tablet he was carrying along with the other Commandments Of The Interwebs.

There are a couple of things that the Clean Reader app does that I don't agree with. First of all it claims to work with all e-books, but apparently not any books you have already purchased elsewhere. You can only import books that have been purchased through the Clean Reader app. Secondly books purchased through the app have been priced higher than the versions elsewhere. So it appears that the cute story of how this app came to be is not the only reason they made this app. They are also doing this for profit. If they made it so that people could import books from outside sources then that would fit their stated goals and there would be nothing that any author could do about it depending on any legal implications that may be involved. It also looks as if these issues might be resolved in the future. The third issue is that this app only addresses words, not content, so the content of a scene in a dinosaur erotica novel may be just as disturbing even after all the naughty words have been cleansed. It's going to be very difficult if not impossible to fix something like that without doing so individually book by book. That would require individual editing which almost certainly be a copyright violation.

It looks as if the angry mob of authors have burned this witch. All of the books that were available on Clean Reader at launch have been pulled. As of  the writing of this blog post there are no books available in the Clean Reader store, and they have confirmed via twitter that they will not be selling any more books. I wonder if this is the end of Clean Reader or if they are going to try to fight back. Perhaps they are waiting for this to blow over, or maybe they are genuine in their quest to provide a way to clean their children's eyeballs with Oxiclean. This shows what we are all capable of if we band together to fight for what we believe in. Right or wrong, good or bad, we are capable of great and terrible things. Once the mob gets going it is tough to stop them. For now I'm going to go get a cheeseburger with ketchup.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Get Hard

Rated R / 1 hr 40 min / Comedy

What is it about?

Will Ferrell plays James King who is an investor and financial advisor who had a pretty sweet life. He has a big house with servants, a beautiful wife, and millions of dollars. Then he gets arrested for fraud and everything falls apart. He decides to fight the charges because he is innocent. The judge throws the book at him, giving a ten year sentence. He then turns to Darnell Lewis, played by Kevin Hart, is an entrepreneur who runs a car wash business. James assumes that Darnell has been to jail and offers him money to train him to Get Hard.

You will like it if...

You like offensive comedies featuring Will Ferrell or Kevin Hart. Like most of their movies, the story follows a cookie cutter formula that has been overdone to death. In spots it feels like they cobbled scenes together in a random order. That's not why you go to one of these movies anyway. The two stars have great chemistry together. They are both comedy juggernauts who keep the laughs going throughout the entire movie. The rest of the cast, led by Craig T. Nelson, do a serviceable job and stay out of the way of the two stars. The movie doesn't shy away from stereotypes or offensive material, so if you are easily offended then maybe you should skip this film. I enjoyed the movie for what it was, a hilarious comedy that doesn't have the best story.

Next Week

Furious 7

Friday, March 20, 2015

Insurgent

Rated PG-13 / 1 hr 59 min / Adventure - SciFi - Thriller

What is it about?

When we last saw Tris and Four in Divergent they were fighting against their fellow Dauntless faction members who were being controlled remotely. They found a way to free some of them to escape. Tris, Four, Caleb, and Peter escape to Amity. The violent Dauntless don't exactly fit in with the non-violent Amity. Jeanine, the leader of Erudite, is trying to hunt down the Divergent using those Dauntless who conspired with her or weren't lucky enough to escape. She is confident the Divergent are the problem, but she needs one of them to open a box. It's a magic box that can only be opened by a Divergent. The box has a message from the founders of the city that could contain the reason they are all there.

You will like it if...

You like SciFi movies based in distopian worlds similar to The Hunger Games. The chemistry between Four and Tris is bad to the point of being almost campy in spots. The two main characters are played by the worst actors in the movie. It is so blatantly obvious when they are set against Kate Winslet. Miles Teller also steals every scene he shares with the two main characters. The rest of the cast is also stellar. It is the main weakness of the film. The story is compelling even though there are a few holes in the plot. The special effects are good if a bit overdone when Tris is under the effects of a serum. Insurgent ends up being a decent adaptation of the book to film, but it could have been much better. It's difficult for a film like this to live up to expectations when you have already read the book it is adapted from.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Run All Night

Rated R / 1 hr 54 min / Action - Crime - Drama

What is it about?

Liam Neeson plays Jimmy Conlon, a man who is trying to forget his past by finding the bottom of a bottle. He asks to borrow some money from his former boss's son Danny. While there he overhears that Danny has a business proposition for his father Shawn who runs the local organized crime syndicate. Shawn, played by Ed Harris, rejects the deal because he has seen the results first hand from a similar deal in the past. His son owes the drug dealers money, and decides to double cross them. Jimmy's son witnesses Danny killing one of them, so Danny comes after him. Jimmy kills Danny to protect his son. Now the mob is after them both.

You will like it if...

You like the barrage of Liam Neeson movies that have come out since Taken. He plays the same character that he has played in all of these movies. Ed Harris is a good villain to pit against Neeson. They both do excellent jobs, but the rest of the cast is lackluster. Especially Joel Kinnaman who does his best impression of grumpy for most of the film. The script isn't as simple as the preview led me to believe and does provide a mild bit of entertainment. The fight scenes are edited with the horrible jump cut style that is used so liberally in Liam Neeson movies. In the end this is a mildly entertaining Liam Neeson flick that follows the same formula of his other recent movies.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Chappie

Rated R / 2 hr / Action - SciFi - Thriller

What is it about?

In the bandit city of Johannesburg, a new robot police force is put in place. Their effectiveness is impressive and causes the crime rate to drop. The creator of these police robots, called 'Scouts', is more interested in creating a true artificial intelligence. That doesn't fall in line with what the corporation he works for wants.They don't care about making a robot that can write poetry. A group of gangsters kidnaps the creator to show them the off switch so they can pull off a heist. They have a large debt to pay to another gangster. The engineer is unable to show them the off switch, but he convinces them to allow him to build Chappie.

You will like it if...

You like complex action movies about robots. The preview does not do this film justice. The story tackles many complex questions that are never fully answered, but I don't think they are meant to be. Chappie is a charming but naive character that is easy to root for. The gangsters he falls in with are by far the least experienced and lack talent when it comes to acting, but they offer a bit of authenticity to their roles. I think they casted them by looking for the craziest looking tattooed people at the gym. It's the only major fault in the movie although there are a few minor ones. The special effects are top notch which isn't surprising considering the people behind the film. The real star is the script that contains a bit of everything and manages to still be highly entertaining without seeming forced. Chappie exceeded my expectations by a wide margin.