Friday, March 27, 2009

Who Owns the ‘Zilla’ in Godzilla?

A writer friend of mine has had the nickname Redzilla for a long time, gaining the name while living in Japan as a tall redhead. She used the name on her blog for a long time along with red lizard and dinosaur graphics. Japanese toy manufacturer, Toho Company, Ltd., who owns the Godzilla trademark, recently sent here a cease and desist letter, warning her not to use the name Redzilla in conjunction with any Godzilla, dinosaur, or lizard-like graphics. Red, not itching for a fight, willingly adopted a new name, “Redcylla & Charybdis,” so as not to offend the crack Toho legal team.

My question is: Who owns the “Zilla” in “Godzilla”? I did a search of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s trademark database and found that the trademark “Zilla” is actually owned by Central Garden & Pet Company Corp. of California (reg. #3386521). New Angle Pet Products used to own the mark, but it was deemed abandoned by the USPTO as of January 5, 2009. Other companies have filed trademark registration applications for the name Zilla. Yet Toho is not one of them although “Zilla” is the name Toho gave to the title character of the cheesy 1998 TriStar Pictures film Godzilla. Toho only owns the mark for Godzilla. In fact, an Australian man filed a trademark application on December 18, 2008 to register the name “Redzilla” for use in connection with grape wines, red wines, table wines, etc.

McDonald’s Corporation has been infamous for, among other things, its vigorous defense of the prefix “Mc” or “Mac.” McDonald’s has brought multiple trademark and copyright infringement lawsuits in the United States and in other countries to prevent the continued use of names such as, “MacJoy,” “McCoffee,” “McChina” and “McMunchies.” McDonald’s has lost some cases and won others. Of course, the financial burden of the lawsuits is far greater on the alleged infringer than the billion dollar company. So it's understandable when someone like my friend Red bows to the pressure of a company like Toho. But the thing is: Does Toho really have the right to claim ownership of the word “Zilla” when the word has become entrenched in the English lexicon when referring to something big, monstrous, or destructive? Or is Toho being a Corpzilla?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Deal with the Devil?

I first became aware of the Taliban in March 2001 with news of this reprehensible regime’s destruction of the two massive Buddhas carved into a mountain cliffside. The Buddhas were built over 1,500 years ago. The Taliban claimed the statues had to be destroyed in accordance with Islamic law. From then I learned about the Talibans’ ethnic massacres and persecution, and their brutal treatment of Afghan women. The West, for the most part, did nothing as this regime waged terror on their own people. On 9/11, of course, that all changed.

Earlier this month, President Obama proposed the notion of reaching out to “moderate” elements of the Afghan Taliban. There is a good article on called “Should the U.S. Negotiate with the Taliban?” where six experts debate whether the strategy is a good idea.

This all begs the question: What is a “moderate” Talib? Is it someone who doesn’t wage jihad against the U.S. and NATO? I surely doubt it’s someone who is dedicated to the protection of the human rights of ethnic minorities and women. The Taliban’s ideology is the strictest interpretation of Sharia, i.e., Islamic law. In other words, a moderate Talib is an oxymoron. The Taliban still control certain regions of Afghanistan and the lives of the unfortunate women who live there remain a nightmare.

The U.S. and NATO’s goal is to end the insurgency in Afghanistan, but at what price? Peace in exchange for the battered faces of illiterate Afghan women hid underneath burqas? The day the U.S. and NATO make peace with the Taliban is a day people everywhere should mourn.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Farewell, Battlestar Galactica

Tonight is the series finale of Battlestar Galactica, the acclaimed reimagining of the campy 1978 original series. Admittedly, I have not been able to catch as many episodes as I could in the past (I don’t own a DVR or TiVo so a part of me is still stuck in the early 90s), but I won’t miss the finale for anything.

When the new BSG came out in 2003 as a miniseries I was initially skeptical. I was one of the few people who had fond memories of the original series. Perhaps it was because I was 6 years old at that time and loved everything sci-fi from re-runs of series such as Star Trek and Space 1999, old movies such as The Thing, Fantastic Voyage, and Forbidden Planet, to then new releases such as Star Wars and Close Encounter of the Third Kind. What I really liked was the underlying Ancient Egyptian theme. In the original series, the humanoids from the Twelve Colonies of Kobol shared a common ancestor with the ancient Egyptians. Earth was the long lost thirteenth colony and the uniforms and designs had a hint of Egyptian influence. I had hoped that if the series was every remade that they would go with a full blown Ancient Egyptian theme with the uniforms, clothing, set design, and the Battlestar Galactica starship looking like a sphinx.

What I got with the 2003 miniseries and subsequent series was something better. It was a perfect series for the post 9/11 Western World and a sci-fi allegory on the war on terror. It also has an outstanding cast. Throughout its run it remained one of the best shows on television if not the best drama series, but it never gained proper recognition by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences which award the Primetime Emmy Awards. That’s unfortunate, but will in no way diminish the impact of this show. Anything that raises the bar on the quality of television, movies, or books is a wonderful thing.

Monday, March 16, 2009


At its upfront presentation to advertisers in New York, the Sci Fi Channel will announce today that its new name will be SyFy. Dave Howe, president of the 16-year-old network, said he was hoping to get the best of both worlds: “We’ll get the heritage and the track record of success, and we’ll build off that to build a broader, more open and accessible and relatable and human-friendly brand.”

In other words, Howe thinks by changing the name the network will change the perception of its demographics, i.e., geeks (which would include me, my brother, sister, cousins, and millions of other people). Mr. Howe said the new name came from “how you’d text [SciFi].” The new name “made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise.” The obvious response? WTF

Literary agent Colleen Lindsay had some funny responses to the news of the name change on her blog and twitter: “ABC network announces rebranding as OMG,” and “NBC rebrands itself with the network ID of FAIL.”

Does rebranding really work? TLC used to be “The Learning Channel” and changed its name to the TLC acronym when the Discovery Channel purchased it in 1991. But the name change coincided with the change in programming away from educational and instructional and towards popular consumption and mass-marketing and finally reality-drama and interior design. The Nashville Network changed its name to TNN in 1998 with its change from country music related programming toward sports-entertainment such as the then WWF (now WWE), NCAA basketball, the now defunct XFL (“rival” league to the NFL), and off-network sitcoms and dramas. The name was changed to Spike TV in 2003 to sever all ties to its past, and promoting itself as a network for young adult males.

If TLC and Spike are any example, name changes are necessitated by a dramatic change in the theme of the network's programming. A network's demographics would dramatically change as a result, similar to when a radio station changes formats. That’s not the case for SciFi, or rather, SyFy. I don’t know what the media and audience response will be to the name change, but one will definitely be: LOL.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Perils of Facebook

I finally entered the 21st Century and joined Facebook two weeks ago. It was great to connect with old high school and college friends, some I haven’t seen in 20 years. Heck, I found old friends from elementary school. It was also fun to build up the roster of friends. I was in competition with my 20 year old niece. It wasn’t really a competition, however, because by the time I joined she had already been a longtime Facebook member and had accumulated 500 friends. I was able to build up a roster of 300 friends in 10 days (the little things in life excite me, such as the new trains on the E subway line), but she had went up to 600 friends by then just to spite me. I’m content in being half her level of freshness.

The daily updates are another fun part of Facebook as we in FBverse all know. But that also causes problems. According to Foxsports, a longtime stadium employee of the Philadelphia Eagles was fired because of one of his Facebook updates. Here’s the link to the report. Dan Leone was upset at the Eagles failing to re-sign fan favorite Brian Dawkins so he posted on his update: “Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver. . . Dam Eagles R Retarted[sic]!!” He was fired over the phone two days later based on the update (and not for any other employment related reason). Dan said he had regretted posting the update, had quickly deleted it, and apologized numerous times to Eagles officials before he was canned. Obviously, that didn’t help.

The moral of the story: be mindful of what you put in your update. Or, make sure you don’t befriend anyone affiliated with your employer, school, or any institution whose reaction to your posts would have a negative impact on your life. The second one is kinda tough, so I’ll stick to the first.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Watched the Watchmen

The highlight of the weekend was seeing the matinee of Watchmen on Sunday. There was some good previews with films I’m interested in (Pixar’s Up) and not (Terminator-Salvation, for reasons I’ll explain in another blog post). With so many reviews out there I won’t bore people with another. Yet since I did blog about the movie before it came out I might as well add an addendum.

Overall, I enjoyed it. The movie was well made and the acting was well enough. I’ve read reviews which bashed the acting, but you have to consider the source material. What is emotional depth in comic book panels is not necessarily satisfactory for emotional depth in film. Herein lies the problem that I alluded to in the earlier blog. I give great credit to director Zack Snyder for making a film that was true to the source material, but in doing so he may have been too reverential. Synder, like he did with 300, essentially used the comic book as a story board for the film. It’s the closest adaptation of a comic book series I’ve seen. But in doing so Snyder did not attempt to—dare I say—improve upon the source. Creative interpretation rather than static replication would have been better. David Edelstein of New York Magazine put it bluntly: “They’ve made the most reverent adaptation of a graphic novel ever. But this kind of reverence kills what it seeks to preserve.”

I had no problem with the length of the film (close to 3 hrs) or the violence (Watchmen was a violent comic). [***Note: I still call Watchmen a comic book series because that was how it first came out when I bought each issue. The term graphic novel came later. Back to the review, non-review***]

The problem was—as I had feared—that the source material seemed dated on the screen. If this same movie would’ve been made 10 to 15 years ago it would’ve been as groundbreaking as the original comic. It would’ve been a perfect response to the train wreck that was George Clooney’s Batman and Robin. Instead, Spider-man filled that role. Then came Spider-man 2, Batman Begins, Ironman, and The Dark Knight. Those five films represent the benchmark for comic book adaptations with the perfect combination of action and emotional depth of the characters. They were both reverent to the source and sought to improve on it. The problem with Watchmen the movie is that it was made as if these five films never existed, and, thus, did not seek to improve on them. Or in other words, like many of the characters in the comic, the film was still fighting a battle that was no longer being waged.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is the famous question posed by the Roman poet Juvenal. Translated into English: “Who will guard the guardians?” The question is based on the dilemma faced by Plato in The Republic. In Socrates’ perfect society with laborers, slaves, and tradesmen, the guardian class is entrusted with protecting the city. The question is, “who will protect the people against the protectors?” Plato answers that the guardians will guard against themselves. History has shown us that that is easier said than done.

A variation of Juvenal’s question provides the basis of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ groundbreaking work, Watchmen. I remember when the first issue of the twelve part comic book miniseries came out in 1986. I was an avid comic book reader at the time. Admittedly, I was more a Marvel than D.C. fan, although Batman was—and still is—my favorite character. Watchmen was like nothing I’d ever read before (and I still smack myself in the head for not safekeeping my copies). It changed the landscape of comics and is still the most highly acclaimed work in the medium. It was even included in Time’s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.

The movie adaption opens this Friday, March 6. I await the opening with anticipation and dread, as is usually the case when beloved books are made into movies. There’s always the question of whether the movie will be true to the source material. Yet there is also the problem of the story being dated, not so much it being irrelevant but that in being a twenty-three year old trendsetter the audience has become more accustomed to its progeny. I liken it to a teenager seeing Casablanca for the first time and complaining that it is filled with clichés. Of course, when Casablanca came out it was the trendsetter and created the clichés. My son loves The Incredibles, and that great Pixar film owes much to Watchmen. When he gets old enough to see the Watchmen it may seem old to him. But for us who experienced the miniseries when it first hit comic book shops over two decades ago it will remain timeless.

Monday, March 2, 2009


The cliché goes: “March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb.” I think every newspaper article and news broadcast mentioned that saying this morning in the New York area. Even mayor Michael Bloomberg said it. Today, the biggest winter storm in over a year has hit the North East. The media refers to the storm as a nor’easter, but I always wondered: What exactly is a nor’easter?

Well, I did some research and this is what I found. According to Stu Ostro, Senior Meteorologist on the Weather Channel’s website,, a nor’easter gets its name from the strong northeast winds that blow during them. According to Dr. Ostro:

“To be a nor’easter, the predominant wind direction during the height of the event should be from the northeast (or NNE or ENE), not the northwest or southeast. The term ‘nor’easter’ can be prone to overuse and lend itself to hype, so TWC does not routinely apply it to every non-tropical East Coast low pressure system with a northeast wind. However, the necessary wind velocity is subjective, unlike blizzards and hurricanes, for which formal criteria exist. The general rule settled on a few years ago is winds of at least gale force—39-54 mph—on the coast or just offshore. (When winds are more than just 15 or 20 mpg but less than gale force, we might still call the thing a nor’easter but label it ‘weak’ or just keep the tone low-key.)”

Today’s storm falls into the “weak” nor’easter category with winds topping at 35 mph, just below gale force.

This, thankfully (since I own a house and will be doing the shoveling), is not the biggest nor’easter snowstorm of my lifetime. That would be the Blizzard of ’78, which was a nor’easter by definition (and also a blizzard, but, of course, a blizzard is not always a nor’easter). The storm formed on February 5, 1978, snowfall occurred between the morning of February 6th and the evening of February 7th, with the storm finally breaking early on February 8. The storm brought record-breaking snowfall and near hurricane force winds from Long Island to Boston. Up to 55 inches fell in some areas. Interstates, schools, and businesses were closed for more than a week.

I was nearly six years old then and the main thing I remember is the huge snow bank in front of my house where my older brother and I built tunnels to crawl through. I missed no more than two days of Kindergarten while the public school kids missed a week. I went to Catholic school and the nuns were hardcore.