Archive for Uncategorized

In the beginning/ this is the end

In the beginning there was some kind of big bang or spark or God said “let there be life.” While I am not sure how it began, I am sure that we are all here for some kind of function whether that function is to make that left turn in order to save a life or skip a rock across a pond, I do believe that we are here for some reason that is wildly out of my control. That being said, if we can all agree that we are here to perform some kind of function than why are we always so awful to each other. Case in point in the last week I have sat down next to someone that I did not know and this is what was said “I have seen your girlfriend naked” in which I responded with “me too” and “I went to school with you, you know everyone in the class that I was in with you hated you” in which I responded “thanks.”

I am not sure if this is just my life or if this is a universal problem. Either way it is pretty awful.

MOVIE REVIEW: This is the End

The movie opens up with Seth Rogen waiting in an airport for Jay Baruchel (no idea how to pronounce the last name). The audience is treated to a few “hey Seth Rogen” or “it’s Seth Rogen.” I am pretty sure that it was terribly difficult to write (screenwriter: Seth Rogen/ Evan Goldberg) about how popular yet callous to the popularity Rogen is/was. That being said the entire film is laugh out loud funny. It is dirty and rotten like Superbad with the same slowed-down-take-it-all-in speed of Pineapple Express.

The cast alone is superb but the way in which they are written is really funny. Every member of the cast has a particular role that they play which is absolutely hilarious. Most of the scenes are comedy gold. The scene in which James Franco blames Danny McBride of soiling a magazine is one of the funniest scenes that I have seen in a movie in years.

The movies premise is a bit far-fetched and the resolution is a bit sloppy but the film itself is funny from beginning to end. I set out to see a super funny movie and that is exactly what I got.

Unbelievable cast list:

Rihanna.

Seth Rogen,

Jay Baruchel,

Jonah Hill,

Craig Robinson,

Jame Franco,

Danny McBride,

Emma Watson,

Aziz Ansari,

Michael Cera,

and

Jason Segal

 

 

 

 

 

New US patent law explained

In the United States we have devised a special system to trademark, copyright or patent ideas concepts or plans. Within said system there have been a number of challenges to the procedures and/ or claims against such copyrights (http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/jun/14/happy-birthday-lawsuit-copyright-warner).  So what does that mean for your business? What are the new rules for patents and why should you worry about it?

Over the last few years there have been an increasing number of pop up companies that litigate towards larger patent carrying companies. These pop up companies attempt to sue the larger company in order to gain some kind of pay-out. For example, if there was a feature such as “buy it now” and it was a clickable feature on your webpage. Wait that sounds a bit like a common domain feature that most people would use right? (http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/07/14/ebay-xprt-patent-lawsuit-payment-technology/) As it turns out a small company called XPRT Ventures claims to own the “buy it now” feature and has sued EBAY along with its partners over what they call a patent infringement. The lawsuit has a total collectable value of $3.8 billion dollars.

While I would like to state very clearly that I have no idea who invented the “buy it now” feature, I would submit to you that over the years many of these lawsuits have been settled blindly after measuring the cost/ benefit analysis of the lawsuit. If you are unfamiliar with a basic cost/ benefit analysis I can help. For example, if you are a larger corporation worth billions of dollars and hold many patents, trademarks, etc. and someone sues you over a process that you had patented with an infringement lawsuit, you would at that point gather all the information for the suit and measure the amount of money it would cost you to fight the suit. Then you would have to make a decision based on the cost of the lawsuit if it goes to trial (legal fees, etc.) versus the cost to settle the suit before it gets to court with some kind of monetary agreement.

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban has even suggested that “dumbass patents are crushing (small) businesses.” (http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/31/mark-cubans-awesome-justification-for-endowing-a-chair-for-eliminating-stupid-patents/) While normally suggestions by eccentric billionaires are not acknowledged, recently (September 2011) the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) attempted to update the patent laws. The most significant change being the modification of a first-to-file system to a first inventor to file system.

“In place (of the old system) will be the new requirement that you have to make your disclosure in a patent filing. Once this understanding is established, inventors will be far more likely to base their patent applications on written documents that will support truly valid patent rights. The new system will require inventors to sit-down and figure out what it is exactly that they want to patent. For $175 they will be able to place a Provisional application on file at the US Patent Office, reserving their right to file a better and more elaborate “story” within the following year. Once the final patent application is filed by the end of that year, the “story” will be frozen. Therefore inventors should understand that they had better get it right, and they only have a year to do so.” (http://coldfusionnow.org/the-us-new-patent-law-march-16-2013/)

Proponents of the new law assert that the law will protect the system (legal) from being overrun with frivolous lawsuits from pop-up companies (patent trolls) that attempt to bleed money from corporations. “Venture capitalists, the people who invest in fledgling tech companies that stand to be trolled, tend to be pretty quiet on this issue when they’re not being vague. Few dare to speak up against patent trolling firms openly because they fear companies in their portfolio will be spotlighted and slapped with lawsuits. Intellectual Ventures (IV) is among the most feared companies when it comes to patent litigation, though the company has repeatedly pushed back against the “patent troll” label. Instead IV describes itself as “a privately-held invention capital company,” though that’s not how I or many others in the Valley would describe them. According to its Web site, the company has raised $6 billion to date and gained more than $3 billion in cumulative licensing revenues. Its investors include leading tech companies such as Apple, Adobe, Google, Microsoft, and Cisco, several venture funds, and universities such as Brown, Cornell, Northwestern and Stanford.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2013/06/18/why-silicon-valley-likes-obamas-patent-troll-offensive/)

Awesome

In 1976 my Mother bought tickets for her favorite music group Bad Company. She was all excited about seeing them at the Kingdome. In order to purchase said tickets my Mother had to work for the entire summer with her Mother (my Grandmother) at a jewelry store. While my Mother will never admit to it, she was a super fan. She had posters of Bad Company on her walls in her room and would listen to their records over and over again with her best friend.

A few days before the concert one of her friends stated boldly that they would also be attending the concert and would love to hop a ride with my Mother and her best friend. The third party proclaimed that her ticket was going to be at will call. Needless to say the night of the concert arrived and all three of the young ladies hopped into the car listening to Bad Company on an 8 track.

When they arrived at the Kingdome (doesn’t exist anymore) the third party friends ticket was not at will call. In fact the name of the individual that she dropped on the will call agent was some goofy name that guys tell to girls to impress them. For example, “go ahead and tell them at will-call that Dirt McGirt said you had a ticket.”

The third party lady did not want to sit in the car so my Mother and her best friend gave (sold) their tickets to a local fan and drove home in disappointment.

When my Mother told me the story that I have so eloquently placed into written words in front of your face I was flabbergasted. I immediately embarked on a quest to acquire tickets to Bad Company. Luckily I found tickets to a local venue on ticketmaster and following a ridiculous ordering of the wrong tickets twice acquired tickets to a Bad Company/ Lynyrd Skynard concert at the White River Amphitheater.

The concert was held on 6/20/13. It was single handily the greatest concert I have ever been to. Here is the best part though, Lynyrd Skynyrd was better than Bad Company. On a side note, the lead singer of Bad Company (Paul Rodgers) looks exactly like Chuck Norris now. In fact he might have done some karate like movements during the show that was only mildly distracting.

When the concert started the crowd was a bit lukewarm but Lynyrd Skynyrd absolutely know how to put on a great rock concert. By the end of the set the entire crowd was singing along to Free Bird (encore) and immediately ran off to the merchandise booth in order to purchase any and all items with the bands name on it.

When Bad Company reached the stage the crowd was exhausted from the excitement of Skynyrd but somehow mustered up the energy to sing along to Shooting Star and Feel like making love.

At the end of the day I had driven four hours to drive to the venue and back but I didn’t care, the concert was unbelievable. I will be a fan for life of both bands. I might even be a fan of Chuck Norris now as well.

 

The first video is from the concert. Kind of not great quality. The second video is another concert but does incorporate the Chuck Norris look.

 

 

The Hangover 3

When the first Hangover movie came out I found the premise interesting and the cast funny. I thought the inclusion of a B-list comedian (Zach Galifianakis) interesting and the choice of a Daily Show correspondent (Ed Helms) funny. The film had Mike Tyson, a tiger, a random baby, Heather Graham (beautiful), and the promise of a hangover that seeded the root of comedy. I laughed, I thought it was a great idea. The execution was top notch. The situations were believable and funny and the comedy was spot on.

When the second Hangover hit the theaters I had all of the excitement of a rabid dog looking for food. I laughed out loud at the trailer when I saw it and thought that it was going to be at the same caliber as the one before, sadly I was wrong. While the first one dealt with the missteps of a drunken night of debauchery the second film delved into a darker almost drama filled narrative that lost its edge of comedy at certain points. I felt as though the characters had lost their will to live. The jokes were dirty, darker and less joy filled. Needless to say the second film was good but not great.

The third film in the series was supposed to place a large bottle cap top to the adventures of the characters. It was supposed to bring the story full circle towards a conclusion that would make the audience appreciate the three film ride they had been on. Unfortunately it plays more like a drama than a comedy. The truth of the matter is that it is not even a good drama. At no point did I feel as though the characters had an original thought or that the story line couldn’t have been pulled from an episode of CSI. The story was weak, the characters struggled to find their own identities, the scenarios seemed fake/forced, there is not hangover in the film and overall the feel of the film was dark and dreary.

Needless to say the film-makers should have gone back to the drawing board and added the elements of the original film that made it funny. They should have considered the fact that Bradley Cooper is a leading man and should not have to play the role of reactionary. Literally every scene he is in he acts surprised. He is a lot better of an actor than he is allowed to be in this film.

The film centers on Mr. Chow, in my opinion he is the least enjoyable character to watch. He is not grounded in reality nor is he interesting. Mr. Chow is more of a side show than a leading character. Many people have said in their reviews of this film that it was good because Mr. Chow is a great character. Those people would be terribly wrong. The character of Mr. Chow is not someone that you want to root for. He is literally the bad guy that messes everything up in all of the other films.

Overall this film missed the mark with me. It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t an original idea. It was not well put together and the entire tone does not fit the series. I left the theater disappointed. I don’t recommend this film. Todd Phillips should be ashamed of himself. He should look in the mirror and re-evaluate his life choices.

 

Movie review: The Internship

At one point of my life I met Vince Vaugh. It was a strange Los Angeles day. He looked disheveled and possibly intoxicated. I had spent the previous night working for a local cable company. When I say the previous night, I mean the entire night.  I hadn’t slept in thirty-six hours and he seemingly had not ever slept. He had a few days of facial hair and had just been filming the movie Domestic Disturbance, a film in which I am sure is not on his reel.

The timing of the meeting was a bit strange due to a few reasons. The first reason was that I had just eaten breakfast in a largely Hollywood hangout that seemed like a who’s who of B-list actors. I saw one of the teachers from Growing Pains, a character actor from Who’s the Boss and a model I had previously seen on billboard on Sunset.

The other, more glaring, reason was that the sun was peaking out of the sky and he appeared like some kind of mirage. He poked out from behind a car and I said a few inadvisable sentences to him. The sentences were mostly an attack on my part. I attacked him for a bar fight that I had heard that he started in North Carolina. He responded with a strange utter of denial and a confusing nod.

Shortly thereafter the conversation I walked away and he entered the restaurant. I am sure that I will never meet him again but it was a strange, awkward conversation that will forever haunt me.

Now more than ten years after the brief conversation I have seen Vince Vaughn blossom into one of the bigger movie stars in Hollywood. When I met him he had only been in a handful of movies. In those same ten years I have gone to college, written (published) a book, written a play and spent time in the military. He is a millionaire and I am nearly broke. Who really one in the battle of wits? I am pretty sure it was him.

The Internship:

The movie the Internship opens up with an Alanis Morrisette song, the song might come off like an inside joke of the film being Ironic, much like the song, however the story itself is not really ironic because it deals with the aged (experienced) versus the young (educated) kids. I am not sure if irony is the word that best fits the story but it is played a few times at the beginning of the film. The other revolving joke includes a young girl from a steel town who dances (Flashdance).

The film is full of really funny lines and is entertaining enough to be something that I would purchase on blue-ray when it comes out. The other part of the film that is interesting is the seemingly off the cuff banter that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have. I would love to see these two actors in all of the comedies in Hollywood. One of the early scenes depicts the two characters interviewing for google on a webcam. This one scene is worth price of admission. The film is funny, it is clever, it tells a good story and the jokes are good. What else can you ask for? Go see the movie. You can thank me later.

 

Cottage Food Law (Washington State)

I wrote this article for work:

As many of you might be aware, Swift Bend Inc. resides in two locations. One in the greater Tacoma area (University Place) and another in Fall City, Washington. While many of you may reside in any number of locations around the world the subject of this particular article will be something more of a local law that you might be able to suggest to law makers in your region.

Washington State recently passed a law that could directly impact the sales of goods in your business. The new Cottage Food Law allows for the preparation of goods in your home kitchen in order to be sold either in a store of your choosing or online (so long as the goods are picked up and not mailed).

According to the State website “A cottage food operation must package and properly label for sale to the consumer any food it produces. The food may not be repackaged, sold, or used as an ingredient in other foods by a food processing plant, or sold by a food service establishment. They must comply with all applicable county and municipal laws and zoning ordinances that apply to conducting a business from one’s home residence prior to permitting as a cottage food operation, including obtaining a Master Business License.” (http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/CottageFoodOperation/)

There are, however, a number of rules that go along with adherence of said law. The first of which is that the total sales of all goods for the year cannot exceed $15,000 per year. If your sales exceed $15,000 than you will have to acquire a “food processing plant license from WSDA under chapter 69.07 RCW or cease operations.” (http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/CottageFoodOperation/)

The second rule that must be adhered to is the following statement must be made clearly on the good sold “made in a home kitchen that has not been subject to standard inspection criteria.” (http://www.washingtonstatecottagefoodlaw.com/)

Other rules include: The name/ address of where the good was produced, the ingredients by weight in descending order, and the name of the cottage food good.

Initially the law was created in order to allow cookie/ baked good sales at local gatherings. For example, a little league game where goods could be purchased at a cost to consumers or a charity event. However, it has also opened the door for small businesses to sell the goods at local events or sell the goods to the public via a local location (business).

The best advice for any local business is to adhere to all local laws and follow all of the guidelines/ inspection criteria that the State provides. A fine or closure of your business could be a poison pill to your business, one in which you may not be able to recover from.

The following steps must be made before you are allowed to sell your goods in an outlet store or online (as long as the consumer picks up the goods and they are not mailed)

1.)    Contact your local health department for potable water testing requirements if you are on a private water system.

2.)    Submit a copy of the test results of your private water supply with your application packet.

3.) Submit a copy of the Food Worker Card(s) for any person(s) who will be processing food at the Cottage Food Operation.

4.) Submit a copy of your Master Business License.

(http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/CottageFoodOperation/)

You can find the application packet at the following link: http://www.washingtonstatecottagefoodlaw.com/

 

 

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

Usually when I am in the movie theater I feel a sense of warmth and belonging. I feel as though the world is being blocked out and I am free to engage into the film. In most of the films that I watch I enter the world of the characters and feel a complete closeness to characters. I feel like I am standing next to them and on their emotional journey. I feel as though my own world crumbles away and the world of the film takes over. I suppose you could compare it to being in the Matrix. That being said when I entered the movie theater in Lakewood, Washington I sat in seats that were not assigned to me. My partner in crime didn’t like the seats that we had initially chosen so she decided that she wanted to sit in other seats. Two minutes into the film the owners of said seats were asking us to move. We ended out moving to seats that were once again not assigned to us and a few more minutes into the film were asked to move again. Finally we ended out in our assigned seats and she was bummed. She thought that the assigned seats were only a suggestion, alas the seats were (in this theater) taken very seriously.

The film opened to a theatrical explosion. The lights and glamour of it all made me feel a complete disconnection from the film though. I felt as though the huge long shots and dancing was a distraction from the internal and external struggle of the characters. The film felt flat, it felt as though the movements of the characters were forced and we never see the obsession that Jay Gatsby has to Daisy Buchanon. What I wanted to see is the internal struggle between Gatsby and his obsession with Daisy. I wanted him to pine for her but I was left with an empty vessel. Why could Gatsby with all of his money paint large murals of Daisy? That would have completely married his obsession with her with the party and atmosphere that he created for her.

The film seems very big. It is loud. The music is amazing. It has people dancing. It is created/ directed by Baz Luhrman, who has for many years taken chances in films but in this particular film he falls short. It seems disconnected and boring. I fell asleep three times in the first hour. While the second hour is a little more character driven, it seems as though it is too little too late. I only hope that Baz Luhrman learns from his missteps and sinks his teeth into a better more character building film.

Dialogue that didn’t make the cut for my play

So what is the story?

-Does there need to be a story?

If you want me to be in the movie there has to be.

-Who says I want you in the movie?

Then what am I doing here?

-What are any of us doing here?

This isn’t an experiment in existentialism.

-Everything is an experiment in existentialism.

You know what I mean?

-Do you even know what you mean?

Sometimes.

-Sometimes? Is that a fifty-fifty sometimes or more statistical than that?

I think that sometimes I am in a room with an agent and he or she tells me something that may or may not be intriguing. So far you haven’t peaked my interest. You had three minutes and now you have less than one.

-What is the rush here?

I live a life that is busy. I live a life that I am scheduled for meetings daily. I don’t have time to discuss my business life with you.

-I think you should examine that statement.

(ponders) I have examined and I am still busy.

-So what you are looking for is the story. You are looking for why you would even consider an independent film. You are thinking that you could make twenty to thirty million dollars on a studio film and maybe with this picture you make a million if you are lucky. Granted I am not promising you that.

I have read the script.

-Yes, the script. Words formulated on paper. The difference between this movie and every other movie you have been part of is the following: if you want to be a real character you look for movies like what I am presenting you here. You look at the words and feel the character bleed through the pages.

And that is what I felt.

-What you felt was emotion, was a unique character: A character that gets under your skin and won’t let go.

I suppose I chose to feel that way.

-How else is there to feel?

You can feel any emotion based on any reading.

-I agree. However, I would submit to you the following asterisk next to that statement.  It is true that you can project your own personal emotions on the paper but what about how the character breathes on the page. What about when the character pulls his eyebrows out? What about when the character watches divorce court everyday just to weep for the broken couples? What about truth? What about the moments. What about when he cracks and runs down the street nude? What about the girl?

The girl is a great part.

-Every part is a great part: The girl, the guy, the priest, the doctor, the nurse, the judge. They are all great.

They are all great.

-I thought you would feel that way.

And that is why you called.

-That is why I called.

But why me.

-Your name.

Are you just looking for funding?

-I am looking for a partnership

Don’t they have websites for that?

-Not for what I am looking for.

Those sites get pretty freaky.

-I want a business partner who can stand by me when we make this picture.

I want to wake-up next to a beautiful woman who is willing to love me for me.

-That is life.

What is life?

-The moments between want and have.

Movie Review: Star Trek into darkness

I will admit that when I go to a certain movie theater that it creates a euphoria that I don’t normally carry with me. I am not sure if it is the extra leg room, the posh seating, the reclining aspect of the large chairs or if it the overall atmosphere of the theater which is excellent by the way. Needless to say, my movie going experience has always been of the utmost importance to me. I want all of the elements brought to the theater that I experienced as a child. I want to screen to be bigger than life and from my small butt to fit in the over-sized seats. I also want to feel like the movie is bigger than me. That the images on the screen are filled with hope and wonderment. That the story moves quickly but not so quick that I cannot keep up with the emotional arc. I want the movie to be complicated but not so complicated that following it would be impossible. I want the hero to win in the end and the villain to be evenly measured in scope and background. I want to see both sides of the story. Meaning that I want to know why the villain is evil and the root of why the hero wants to save the day.

In Star Trek into darkness a lot of the elements of the movies that I used to see in the 1980’s survive. I am not stating that the film carries a 1980’s vibe, I am merely stating that the film makers incorporated all of the elements of movies that worked in the past and made a quality movie based on a formula that works.

If you add a hero who has a need to save the day when he has been called reckless (Captain Kirk), a character that has little to no emotion (Spock), a treacherous evil enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy the world (Khan) a random beautiful woman in her underwear (Alice Eve) and a lot of explosions that move the story along than you have a good movie.

That all being said Star Trek is a very good movie. There is nothing wrong with it. The story-line is good, the acting is good, the characters are interesting and the presentation is flawless.

I recommend that you see this movie based on every measurable category that movies are based on. It is a good film, made in a way that doesn’t make you feel silly for watching it.

I will make this one observation that may not be very popular though. It is a soda and popcorn film not a feel the emotional strength that an independent movie brings to the table.

Just turn your brain off and watch the movie. Sometimes turning the brain off can be a beneficial way of letting go of all the madness in the world and isn’t that why we all go to the movies?

 

Marketplace Fairness Act

I wrote this for my day job and thought that I could share it here:

 

Marketplace Fairness Act

In the last few weeks there has been a lot of discussion (debate) about a bill that just passed through the Senate. The bill in question is called the Marketplace Fairness Act.  This act, as it is written now, will attempt to level the playing field between local businesses and online retail stores.  Essentially, the bill, in concept, attempts to promote small business exchanges over larger corporation exchanges. (http://www.marketplacefairness.org/bill-text/)

In the past, when you purchased goods online you did not pay a sales tax unless the State that you lived in was the same location in which you purchased the good. With the new law, if passed, the State in which you are to receive the goods or services will collect a sales tax as long as they are part of the simplified sales tax group (currently 24 States).( http://taxes.about.com/od/statetaxes/a/Streamlined-Sales-and-Use-Tax-Agreement.htm)

In addition to the collection of sales tax from online retail stores the bill would exempt small businesses that earn less than $1 million annually from out-of-state sales, and requires states to provide retailers with software to calculate sales taxes based on a buyer’s zip code. States would be allowed to collect taxes on out-of state purchases in six months, to give retailers time to prepare.

Early estimation on the collection of potential purchases online project $23 billion in annual taxes from online sales that presently go uncollected (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/edward-zelinsky/adopt-the-marketplace-fai_b_3238842.html)

Since 1992, States have not be able to collect the sales tax from items purchased online due to a court ruling (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=504&invol=298) Quill Corp. Vs Heitkamp.

“Quill was a Delaware corporation with offices and warehouses in Illinois, California, and Georgia. None of its employees worked or resided in North Dakota, and its ownership of tangible property in that State was either insignificant or nonexistent.  Quill sold office equipment and supplies; but solicited businesses through catalogs and flyers, advertisements in national periodicals, and telephone calls. Its annual national sales exceed $200 million, of which almost $1 million was made to about 3,000 customers in North Dakota. It is the sixth largest vendor of office supplies in the State. It delivered all of its merchandise to its North Dakota customers by mail or common carrier from out-of-state locations.” (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=504&invol=298)

“Quill argued that North Dakota did not have the power to compel him to collect a use tax from its North Dakota customers. Consequently, the State, through its Tax Commissioner, filed this action to require Quill to pay taxes (as well as interest and penalties) on all such sales made after July 1, 1987. The trial court ruled in Quill’s favor, finding that the State had not shown that it had spent tax revenues for the benefit of the mail-order business.

(http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=504&invol=298)

So far the bill has made its way through the Senate (69-27) and should be argued on the floor of the House within the next few weeks. That being said, if it does pass the House and is signed into law by the President, how will it affect your business?

1.)    If your company earns less than $1 million dollars a year you will have an exemption and will not have to charge a sales tax on your goods or services. (online)

2.)    If your State does not pay a sales tax (Oregon, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, Alaska) than you will not be required to pay the sales tax as long as the good that you are purchasing is not from another State that does have the sales tax.