Sidecar Dogs and Doggles

I recently stumbled across a trailer for a documentary about dogs riding in motorcycle sidecars. The preview was perfectly executed: bikes and revving engines, dogs wearing goggles with their faces in the wind, americana music, and a bunch of biker stories about how much dogs enjoy riding in sidecars. After watching the first thirty seconds, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s a whole sub culture of people who absolutely love taking their dogs on bikes. I hadn’t previously considered the possibility, but I’m extremely happy to know this is a thing.


The movie is called ‘Sit Stay Ride: The Story of America’s Sidecar Dogs’. It was funded through Kickstarter earlier this year, raising almost $35K from 679 backers, and appears to have been primarily released digitally through Vimeo. What a great example of using crowd funding to facilitate creative projects. Just a few years ago a movie like this probably wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the creators taking on significant risk, and now a small group of supporters can make this sort of thing happen.

Here’s the trailer, which I definitely recommend watching:

Immediately after watching the trailer I looked up dog goggles, as I also hadn’t considered that there’s a market for protective eye wear specially made to fit dogs. I quickly learned that it’s dominated by a company called Doggles, and they offer dozens of different colors, sizes, and styles (e.g., chrome, frameless, original). In the same way that the brand ‘Frisbee’ has become the most common word for flying plastic discs, regardless of the brand, I get the sense that dog goggles are always just referred to as doggles. Which makes sense.

I also researched the secondary market for motorcycles with sidecars. I decided that if I ever get a motorcycle (which I won’t), it will definitely be a Ural 750cc. Examples here and here.

A few days after seeing the trailer I had an open evening and decided to buy and stream the movie. I enjoyed it, but at an hour and twenty minutes, make sure you’re very excited to hear bikers talking at length about how much their dogs love riding around in sidecars before jumping in. I think it actually would have been better as a forty to fifty minute film, with the same content, but edited down a bit. Regardless, it’s filled with a bunch of interesting, quirky, small-town people who all have great stories about their lives, dogs, and sidecar bikes. And as a crowd-sourced documentary project, it’s clearly positioned to appeal to a niche group of people who think this sort of thing is awesome. And that’s great.

And yes, I realize the proportion of my posts that are about dogs has significantly increased since Laura and I got a dog.

How to Make People Float

I read Ender’s Game when I was 12 years old — it was on a summer reading list, and as a young kid, I loved the book. It was among the most unique stories I read in grade school. And given that it was written in the 80’s, many of its ideas were certainly ahead of the times. I’ve never been into sci-fi, but it was thought provoking and it grabbed my attention.

I haven’t closely followed all of the Orson Scott Card controversy, but once I heard there was a movie in the works, I knew I had to see it. Last weekend I did, and thought it was thoroughly entertaining, and it at least did the book some justice. The directing and CG were impressive. And I just came across this interesting clip into how they pulled it off:

You Killed My Father, Prepare to Die

One of the best realizations I’ve had over the past two weeks was that Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride is Saul Berensen from Homeland. In retrospect, it’s quite obvious:

Mandy Patinkin, what a versatile actor. Here are a few of his great moments.

Inigo sword fighting:

Saul fighting terrorism:


Sex Photos Revealed

I found these photos the other day and couldn’t believe it.

Okay, that was low. I apologize. Interesting fact: whenever I put sex in the title of a blog post, my daily traffic jumps 3-5x. Anyways, now that I’ve diverted you away from Facebook or Twitter, I have a favor to ask.

Over the past few months I’ve been playing the guitar in Vanessa Kafka’s band. Vanessa’s written some great new songs since her last album, and we’re raising some money on Kickstarter to go record an EP. We’re pretty excited to head to the studio, but still have a ways to go on the fundraising front.

The thing is, Kickstarter’s different from other fund raising sites. Your pledge isn’t a donation, but rather a pre-order of the EP. So in a few months, you could be one of the first people to have a copy of the record we make in the studio. And there are some other rewards for those who generously donate more, including a personalized recording, a private concert at your house, admission to the CD release after party, and more.

So if you can help out, we’d appreciate your support. You can find Vanessa’s Kickstarter page here. And thanks to everyone who’s already backed the project.

Here’s our promotional video from the Kickstarter site:

And check out  in Vanessa’s website to hear songs from her last album.

Tattoo Artist Can’t Stand Hangovers

Note: This is a guest post written by James Marshall Spector.  The following (including, but not limited to, my research, thoughts and opinions) cannot and should not be considered to be actual legal advice in any way, shape, or form.  It is offered merely for entertainment purposes as reflections on an interesting legal issue.

I think it’s fair to say that The Hangover reintroduced a reformed Mike Tyson to the public with his humorous cameo. Besides his ferocious boxing skills in the eighties and early nineties and his battles in and out of court, Tyson is also well known for his face tattoo.  If you have seen the trailer for the upcoming sequel, you may have noticed that Stu, played by Ed Helms, sports a very similar facial tattoo.

In an interesting turn of events, the tattoo’s artist filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros in federal court, alleging copyright infringement of his tattoo’s design.

Whitmill says he created and applied the tattoo to the upper left side of Tyson’s face on Feb. 10, 2003.

Whitmill says the boxer signed a release stating that Whitmill was the owner of the tattoo’s design, and says he registered a copyright of the design.

Whitmill claims Warner Bros. used an exact replica of his work, without permission, to promote “The Hangover 2” this spring.

“On information and belief, the movie features a virtually exact reproduction of the original tattoo, which appears on the upper left side of the Stu Price character’s face, played by actor Ed Helms,” the complaint states.

The complaint contains side-by-side pictures of the tattoo’s reproduction and a picture of Tyson’s face.

In order to have a prima facie claim, Whitmill will need to prove two elements: (i) the tattoo was copyright protectable and (ii) infringement by Warner Bros.

The first issue is whether a tattoo can be copyrightable.  To warrant copyright protection, the tattoo would have to be an original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.  Whitmill claims to have a signed release from Tyson granting him all ownership rights in the tattoo.  This should satisfy the authorship requirement.  Does the tattoo constitute fixation in a tangible medium of expression?  Most likely.  The work is fixed when it is “is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration.” The tattoo is permanently inked on Tyson’s face, thereby enabling another to perceive it for more than just a transitory period.  The originality prong only requires Whitmill to have used a minimal degree of originality or creativity.  This is a trickier issue.  I know very little of these kinds of designs.  To me, the tattoo appears to be similar to many other public domain images; however, the court may find the tattoo original enough to meet this requirement.

After proving copyrightability, Whitmill must establish that Warner Bros infringed his copyrighted tattoo. This can be done by showing that Warner Bros had access to the tattoo and that their use is substantially similar to his original.  Access requires a showing that Warner Bros had a reasonable opportunity or possibility of viewing the plaintiff’s work.  Not only does Mike Tyson’s celebrity status establish a reasonable opportunity for Warner Bros to have viewed the tattoo, but Tyson was FEATURED in the first Hangover movie.  Clearly, Warner Bros had access to the tattoo. To determine whether the two tattoos are substantially similar, the court can simply perform a side by side comparison:

Indeed, they are substantially similar; the entire joke of Stu having a face tattoo relies on its similarity to Tyson’s tattoo.  This point, however, will be raised in Warner Bros’s defense that their use was fair.

The Copyright Act allows for the fair use of copyrighted materials in certain situations.  To determine if the use was fair, the court will employ the four factor test:

1) The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

  • Despite the movie’s commercial release, the purpose of including the tattoo in the Hangover sequel is parodic.  In parody elements of the prior work are necessary to create a new work that comments on the former.

2) The nature of the copyrighted work;

  • Not really relevant in this instance because it is parody in nature.

3) The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

  • An infringer can only use enough of the copyrighted material to conjure up the original tattoo. There cannot be verbatim copying.  Here, it clearly is verbatim.  This fact may hurt Warner Bros.

4) The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

  • I don’t think this will effect Whitmill’s tattoo market. In actuality, it may boost his reputation and sales.  On the other hand, if he does not get a licensing fee when others get this tattoo, the Hangover’s use may increase copyright infringement.

In terms of relief, Whitmill is asking the court for an injunction to prevent the release of the movie and money damages for the infringement.  The court will never grant an injunction against a movie that cost millions to make.  It just won’t happen so he’ll be left with money damages if he can successfully prove these things.  I have to assume that Warner Bros will want this case to go away so they’ll just settle for an undisclosed amount out of court.

Wes Anderson is Back!

This is exciting:

Jason Schwartzmann, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Bruce Willis will join a stellar cast for Wes Anderson’s latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, according to reports in the US.

News of Anderson’s follow-up to Fantastic Mr Fox first emerged in November. Now a small casting agency based in Rhode Island, where the movie will be shot, has confirmed the cast list. Schwartmann and Murray are old hands as far as Anderson is concerned, while Swinton and Willis will make their debuts for the film-maker. Ed Norton and Frances McDormand are also joining the production.

Moonrise Kingdom is a 60-set tale which revolves around two young lovers who take off from their New England hometown causing friends and family to embark on a search for them. Willis, according to previous reports, will play the town sheriff, who’s also having an affair with the missing girl’s mother (a role pencilled for McDormand), while Norton has his eye on the part of a scout master. Murray will play the girl’s father,described as having his own issues.

Confirmation here.