Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Movies & TV’ Category

How American Propaganda Changed Carmen Miranda’s Career

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Well worth watching:

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2023 at 6:27 pm

Bill Pope’s cinematography style

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I find some videos interesting in how they show me how very much I do not know about some topic or another. Watching and have explained something that people routinely do as their daily job, and something of which my ignorance is vast, is humbling and also intriguing. Here’s an example — an example, I must keep in mind, is old-hat and obvious to many.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2023 at 7:16 am

The argument in favor of piracy in an age of streaming

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This thread gives a cogent argument for pirating movies, and the argument is made by a movie creator.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2023 at 8:19 pm

The Unhinged Miniature World of Bobby Fingers

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In an earlier post I blogged a strange and absorbing video which started with making a diorama of the time Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire during the making of a Pepsi commercial. The video (and diorama) maker was Bobby Fingers, and Andy Baio has a good piece about him in Waxy:

The pseudonymous Irishman known as “Bobby Fingers” has only made three videos since launching on YouTube last August, but each one is an unhinged masterpiece.

If you haven’t seen them before, Bobby Fingers makes elaborate 1:9 scale dioramas depicting embarrassing moments in the lives of famous men, showing off his talents in model-making with a range of techniques from Bronze Age wax casting to modern 3D laser scanning.

But each video veers off wildly in different directions, interspersed with field trips, interviews, deadpan commentary, surrealist humor, and inevitably, a musical number.

Craft-wise, it’s on par with the best modelmakers on YouTube, but shares more in common with viral video phenomenon like Don’t Hug Me I’m ScaredToo Many CooksNathan for You, and Unedited Footage of a Bear. Each one subverts the conventions of a familiar genre, whether it’s educational children’s shows, classic TV intros, business makeover reality shows, pharmaceutical ads, or in this case, crafty ASMR artisan YouTube channels. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2023 at 11:14 am

Henry Mancini did some very nice work

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Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2023 at 7:54 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, Music, Video

Silicon Valley Noir

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Very interesting piece in Medium by Cory Doctorow:

My next novel is Red Team Blues, an anti-finance finance thriller starring Martin Hench, a high-tech forensic accountant who’s spent 40 years busting Silicon Valley grifters large and small.

At 67, Marty’s seen it all, and while he is full of compassion for the victims of the scams he unwinds, his overwhelming feeling is bitterness. As he says in the opening pages of the book, after landing a job that will change his life:

Truth be told, I also didn’t want to contemplate the possibility that, at the age of sixty-­seven, the new work might stop coming in. Silicon Valley hates old people, but that was okay, because I hated Silicon Valley. Professionally, that is.

Red Team Blues is the first volume in the Martin Hench series, a series that runs in reverse chronological order. The next book, The Bezzle (Feb. 2024) is set in the mid-2010s, while the third, Picks and Shovels (Jan. 2025) is Marty’s origin story, starting in the early 1980s when Marty drops out of MIT and comes west to San Francisco in the first heroic years of the PC revolution.

Marty’s semi-voluntary defenstration from MIT is caused by his fascination with technology, which may seem ironic. But it’s a common tale —filmmakers drop out of film school because they love film, writers drop out of MFAs because they love writing, and technologists drop out of elite engineering programs because they love technology.

Many of us have experienced that youthful, all-consuming love for a tool or practice that seems to frame the whole world and promises to define our lives. It’s a heady feeling, one that makes us impatient with the plodding, formal methods of institutional instruction, which is so often backwards-looking and of limited relevance to a fast-changing world.

For Marty, dropping out and enrolling in community college to become a CPA is the right call. His love of spreadsheets is intrinsically tied to that sense of excitement about the future, because at their heart, spreadsheets are vehicles for imaginative exercises about what may come: merely model the flows of some activity or process, then change your assumptions and see what happens.

In other words, a spreadsheet is a way of answering Heinlein’s canonical three science fictional questions:

• What if?
• If only…
• If this goes on…

At community college, Marty has a thunderbolt realization: the futuristic exercises that all of his classmates are interested in involve figuring out ways that spreadsheets can hide money, but only Marty is thinking about how to use them to find money.

In this exercise, Marty will always have the upper hand. To hide money, his adversaries will have to make no mistakes that Marty can exploit. For Marty to find that money, he won’t have to be perfect, he’ll merely have to find his enemies’ imperfections.

Marty has the “attacker’s advantage.” In war-games where defense plays the “blue team” and the attackers play the “red team,” the red team always enjoys this advantage.

Marty loves playing for the red team, but over the sweep of his career, he finds himself increasingly on the defensive (hence Red Team Blues).

That’s because — attacker’s advantage or no — the people who want to use technology as a source of empowerment, connection, and collective action have lost to our enemies, who want to use technology for surveillance, extraction and control.

For now, at least.

When I set out to write a noir series, I went back to the classics, the old favorites that I hadn’t read in decades, writers like Chandler and Hammett.

Going back to old favorites is a weird exercise. I remember reading an interview with Edward Neumeier about his script for Starship Troopers, describing how he remembered the original Heinlein novel as a kind of fast-paced action-adventure thriller about massive set-piece battles with alien monsters. But when he actually went back and re-read the novel, he discovered while that those battles make up the beginning and end of the novel, the meat of the book is a bunch of boring lectures about whether only soldiers should be allowed to vote.

I remembered those hard-boiled novels as plot-forward, pacey books about two-fisted heroes beating all the odds to defeat deliciously evil villains. I thought of them as Ur-pulps, as William Gibson told The Paris Review:

The only kind of ghetto arrogance I can summon up from being a science fiction writer is, I can do fucking plot. I can feel my links to Dashiell Hammett. If I meet some guy who subsists on teaching writing in colleges, and if there’s any kind of hostility, I think, I can do plot. I’ve still got wheels on my tractor. The great thing is when you’re doing the other stuff and you whip the plot into gear, then you know you’re driving something really weird.

Gibson’s not wrong here. These books have got wheels on their tractors. They can do fucking plot.

But what I had either missed or forgotten about those books was the bitterness of the noir hero. I remembered their affect as being wry, smart-assed, even dry. But the bitterness surprised me.

What surprised me more was the source of that bitterness. The median noir detective is a veteran of either World War I (if the action is set in the interwar years) or World War II (for midcentury settings) and the thing they are just smouldering with rage at is the way that the America they fought for has changed.

They left an America where the right people were running the show — affluent white guys who evinced a priggish moral code. They come back to an America where women, Black and brown people and queers are visible and unashamed of it. They come back to an America where the rich have revealed themselves to be deviants and perverts.

The affect of the noir hero is bitterness over progress.

Much like Edward Neumeier discovering to his dismay that the beloved cracking space-battle novel of his boyhood was actually a reactionary, book-length antidemocratic screed, revisiting those noir novels made me realized that those hard-boiled tough-guys I loved were reactionary creeps.

Science fiction has its share of . . .

Continue reading.

I recall how Right-wing Starship Troopers was, and Gordon Dickson wrote a refutatory series in response, the Childe cycle.

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2023 at 2:15 pm

The disabled villain: why sensitivity reading can’t kill off this ugly trope

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Jan Grue writes in the Guardian:

Some years ago, I decided to read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. It may have been a fit of nostalgia for the Roger Moore films I grew up watching, or perhaps I was bored with writing short stories for a minuscule readership and wanted to know what mass-market success read like.

It was quite an experience – and one I found myself recalling recently, when I read that Fleming’s books were being revised, chiefly in order to remove some, though not all, of the casual racism. Also some of the misogyny, though likely not all of that either.

My first question, on reading the news, was what kind of reader exactly was the publisher, Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, envisioning. Presumably someone who would, were it not for the most explicit slurs, really enjoy the ethnic stereotypes. Or someone who would, were it not for the full-on rapes, really enjoy the pervasive sexism. (Come to think of it, there are probably quite a few of these readers.)

The other question that struck me was this: what on earth are they going to do about disability?

As a wheelchair user, I could not help noticing that the original Bond books had, shall we say, an interesting relationship to embodied differenceIt was a feature of Fleming’s writing that would be all but impossible to alter through the interventions of a sensitivity reader, hired by the publisher to make the books more palatable to contemporary readers. Fleming’s attitude to disability was encoded not only in words and phrases, but in characterisation and plot – that is, in the stories’ most fundamental qualities.

It is not a novel observation that Bond villains tend to be, to use a less sensitive register, disfigured and deformed. Dr No with his steel pincers instead of hands, Blofeld with his scars, Hugo Drax, the villain from Moonraker, with his facial disfigurement and his pathetic attempt to conceal it with a “bushy reddish beard” (reddish hair may itself count as a deformity in these stories). Were they not successfully self-employed, most of Bond’s enemies would likely qualify for disability benefits.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2023 at 4:43 pm

The Game Changers is back on Netflix

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The Game Changers is a very watchable movie about the effects of a whole-food plant-based diet on athletic performance and one’s health in general — and now it is again available on Netflix. The Game Changers has its own website, which notes:

Presented by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Las recewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic, and Chris Paul — a revolutionary new film about meat, protein, and strength.

The site also has recipes for the foods seen in the movie.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2023 at 8:50 pm

How 1923 Hollywood shaped 2023 Hollywood

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At AV Club Cindy White takes a look back:

While a lot of people are looking ahead to the movies that are coming in 2023 (we’ve done it too), The A.V. Club thought this would also be a good moment to take a look back. Way, way back. We decided to time-shift a full 100 years, to 1923, a seminal year for Hollywood in particular and the movie industry in general. A century ago, the growing business of moviemaking already had a foothold in Los Angeles—and the recently incorporated neighborhood of Hollywood—but it was in 1923 that Hollywood as we know it today began to take on a familiar shape. Literally. That’s the year an enterprising real estate mogul completed construction on a giant sign in the hills overlooking a new housing development called Hollywoodland. A cultural landmark, and an industry, was officially immortalized.

Hollywood was a hive of activity in 1923, both on and off film sets, as widely depicted in histories and period pieces set during that era (Damien Chazelle’s heightened historical drama Babylon is one recent example). Studios like Warner Bros., which was formally incorporated in 1923, were consolidating their power and building stables of contracted talent. As a result, production companies sprang up to give creatives more power over their own work. Many artists, including Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, were making the transition from shorts to feature films. The year also saw early experiments with new technical advances like synchronous sound and color, which would revolutionize the industry within the next decade.

Silent films were going from production to theater screens at a frantic pace, with many of those films coming in from overseas. With no language barrier to hold them back, filmmakers in countries like France, Germany, the Soviet Union (as it was called at the time), Japan, and Brazil were able to reach mass audiences around the globe, just as long as they were able to translate their title cards. International talents like director Ernst Lubitsch also made their way to Hollywood during this time, attracted by natural and industrial resources that weren’t available anywhere else.

There were hundreds of silent films and shorts released in 1923, about half of which are now considered lost. Preservation wasn’t a priority in those days; it’s frankly amazing that we still have access to as many as we do. For example, only one of the five films made by legendary director John Ford (you know, the guy recently portrayed by David Lynch in The Fabelmans) in 1923 has survived intact—a tale of gamblers and river boats called Cameo Kirby. Its main significance (besides being remade into a musical in 1930) is that it was billed as “A John Ford film.” Before 1923, he was always credited as “Jack Ford.” Another of his films from that year—the Tom Mix adventure North Of Hudson Bay—has just 40 minutes of viewable footage remaining. The rest are considered lost.

A year of firsts and spectacles

A number of future stars made their film debuts in 1923, including Jean Arthur, Thomas Mitchell, Fay Wray, and an aspiring starlet named Marlene Dietrich. It turned out to be a momentous year for Dietrich. Not only did she . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2023 at 1:25 pm

Doing Vermeer, a documentary

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12 February 2023 at 8:07 am

A Hollywood Armorer on the “Rust” Shooting Charges

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In the Atlantic, Caroline Mimbs Nyce interviews a movie armorer on the fatal shooting on the set of Rust. The article begins:

When someone is accidentally shot and killed on a film set, who is responsible: the actor holding the gun, the person who handed it to him, or the professional charged with managing the movie’s weaponry? Last week, New Mexico prosecutors proposed an answer: all three.

The actor Alec Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer—the person who manages the set’s firearms and their related safety protocols—also faces charges. Meanwhile, Assistant Director Dave Halls, the person who reportedly handed Baldwin the gun moments before the incident, has taken a plea deal on a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, according to prosecutors.  Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed have denied responsibility for Hutchins’s death.

I spoke with Thomas Pimentel, a Massachusetts-based armorer, twice over the phone about the charges, the state of the armorer position in the movie industry, and whether Hollywood should stop using guns on film sets altogether.

Our conversations have been condensed and edited for clarity. . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2023 at 5:03 pm

Hundreds of Free Movies on YouTube

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OpenCulture points out the wealth of free movies on YouTube:

We lived in the age of movie theaters, then we lived in the age of home video, and now we live in the age of streaming. Like every period in the history of cinema, ours has its advantages and its disadvantages. The quasi-religiosity of the cinephile viewing experience is, arguably, not as well served by clicking on a Youtube video as it is by attending a screening at a grand revival house. But on the whole, we do have the advantage of access, whenever and wherever we like, to a great many films that most of us may have been wholly unable to see just a couple of decades ago — and often, we can watch them for free.

That said, these are still relatively early days for on-demand viewing, and finding out just where to do it isn’t as easy as it could be. That’s why we’ve rounded up this collection of Youtube channels with free movies, which together constitute one big meta-collection of hundreds of films. Among them are numerous black-and-white classics, of course, but also critically acclaimed pictures by international auteurs, rather less critically acclaimed (but nonetheless enjoyable) cult favorites, documentaries on a wide variety of subjects, and even twenty-first-century Hollywood releases.

Which films you can watch will vary, unfortunately, depending on which part of the world you happen to be watching them in. But no matter your location, you should easily be able to find more than a few worthwhile selections on all these channels. One under-appreciated aspect of our streaming age is that, though the number of choices may sometimes overwhelm, it’s never been easier to give a movie a chance. One click may, after all, transport you into a picture that changes the way you experience cinema itself — and if it doesn’t, well, at least the price was right.

Continue reading. There are more.

Written by Leisureguy

7 January 2023 at 3:15 am

Posted in Movies & TV, Technology

Brain Wave, by Jake Fried

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Written by Leisureguy

6 January 2023 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, Video

Navi Boys | #1 Avatar Fan Podcast | Episode 654

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15 December 2022 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, Video

Why sci-fi alien planets all look the same

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Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2022 at 2:01 pm

“How communism got me into reading as a child”

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Claudia Befu writes at Story Voyager:

One of the most vivid memories I have from my childhood is bulging into the house on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and asking my mother:

‘Did it start?’

On the days when the answer was ‘It already finished a long time ago’ I started crying.

‘Why didn’t you call me?’

‘You were playing.’

‘But I wanted to see the cartoon!’

I grew up in communism, and we only had cartoons on TV on Saturday and Sunday from 1 pm to 1:05 pm. Usually, it was one episode of ‘Tom and Jerry’, ‘Bolek a Lolek’, or some other party-approved cartoon.

As I grew up and started to play outdoors with other kids from the neighborhood, I usually missed the weekly episodes, and I was devastated.

The advantage of growing up with communist TV 📺 

I am already on day 38 of my 100-day TV detox challenge, and I can’t believe how time is flying. Things have been very busy at work lately, and this newsletter filled up the gap left by not watching Netflix in my free time. I also started to meet more people and generally spend quality time with my husband.

Aside from a couple of documentaries and some TikTok and YouTube videos, I haven’t watched anything during this time.

Between weeks two and four, I automatically thought about watching a series or a movie whenever there was some unstructured time. I am surprised at how deeply ingrained watching entertainment is in my psyche. But about one week ago, my brain stopped craving for series, and now I don’t think about it as often.

Besides, I can’t watch anything right now. I feel physically ill every time I think of starting a Netflix series.

How did I get to this?

This question made me go down the rabbit hole on the TV detox topic and look at my life through the TV lens.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable things is that I grew up watching very little TV.

It wasn’t by choice but by design. The communist TV diet was rationed like our food, hot water and electricity.

For example, a family of four could only buy one litter of cooking oil and half a kilogram of sugar per month. This was enough fat and sugar for the whole family for an entire month.

Hot water was dispensed twice weekly because showering every other day was more than enough. And electricity was cut for some hours during the night since everyone was sleeping anyway.

We had around seven to nine hours of TV every weekend and about two hours in the evening during the week. Of course, some TV entertainment was allowed on weekends, such as 5 minutes of cartoons or party-approved Romanian film productions.

But during the week, the two hours of TV were filled with news about the dictator.

Almost every evening, we would watch Nicolae Ceausescu pour cement into the foundation of yet another communist building while his wife observed him with a watchful eye. When he wasn’t pouring cement, he would walk through a laboratory wearing a white doctor’s coat or a factory wearing a safety helmet.

His wife, Elena Ceausescu, was always next to him, featuring her version of the ‘Thatch’ helmet hair and her Channel knock off suits made in Romania.

Left without much choice, I was gorging on the Encyclopaedia TV program that was running once a week, inspiring me from a very young age to become an astronaut. But, as you can conclude, the inspiration wasn’t strong enough.

This strict TV diet also had its advantages. As I grew up, my parents read a lot to us, and after I learned how to read at the ripe age of six, I started reading books myself, and I didn’t stop for the next six years.

Everyone who knew me during that time remembers me holding a book in my hand. Or a stash of books if they saw me on my way back from the library. Without a TV to distract me, I fully embraced the magic of books and developed a lifelong love for reading.

Do you doubt I read so much as a child just because I didn’t have anything age-appropriate to watch on TV?

Let me introduce you to the next chapter of my life.

The glory of capitalist TV

In the autumn of 1989, about three years after I started reading books, communism fell, and suddenly we had twelve hours of TV programs every day.

I remember watching my first . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 October 2022 at 3:25 pm

For four days, you can watch the terrific movie “Fantastic Fungi” for free. Watch it

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Well worth watching. And it’s also available on Netflix.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2022 at 9:13 am

List of common misconceptions

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16 October 2022 at 5:55 am

“Falling Down”

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Recently I was reading one of the many lists of great movies to watch, and I happened across Falling Down (1993), which I had seen back in the day. I can’t find the article now, but it said some interesting things. The movie stars Michael Douglas (and his father said it was his best role). Douglas was wanting to take a break after just finishing Basic Instinct, but when he read the script, he wanted the role. He even asked for his salary to be cut to make more money available for the movie. Other notable cast: Robert Duvall, Tuesday Weld, Barbara Hershey, Frederic Forrest, and Rachel Ticotin.

It’s on Netflix, so I started watching it again, and it really is excellent Reccommended.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2022 at 9:35 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Streaming content and the squeeze for more profit

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I watch a fair amount of streaming content, and I have noticed a decline in quality and range of offerings (with no decline in prices — quite the contrary, in fact). And from a report by Travis Andrews (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post, it’s going to get worse.

The morning after she gave birth last month, Lindsay Katai was in the hospital’s postpartum room with her new baby when her fiance stumbled on some bad news on Twitter. “ ‘Oh no,’ he said. ‘They removed “Infinity Train” from HBO Max.’ ”

“And that’s how I found out,” Katai said.

The critically acclaimed animated show she had worked on extensively was simply deleted, thrown into a black hole of corporate cost-saving measures, along with several titles on HBO Max. The company, she added, even scrubbed every mention of the show from its social media accounts.

“It’s hard because it used to be your show would air and it could go away forever, regardless if it was on cable or network. … But we thought we were protected from that because of streaming. That was always sort of the consolation — we’re not getting paid as much. We’re not getting residuals. But at least we’ll be accessible for a long time to come. And lo and behold, that’s not the case anymore,” Katai said. “It’s a purely bottom-line-driven decision-making process that’s all about maximizing profits over any kind of artistic voice.”

“I don’t feel great about being a writer right now,” she added. “I don’t feel great about being in the industry right now.”

Streaming television is going through an existential crisis, involving the people who make it and the viewers who watch it. Its revolutionary zeal has naturally faded, as that initial wave of near limitless expansion, boundless creative opportunities and vast archival choices crashes ashore, after a spate of megamergers and a drop in new subscribers.

Just when streaming has finally attracted more viewers than cable or broadcast TV, its major players are engaged in a long-predicted war for subscribers, who are becoming all too aware of rising subscription prices and, both subtly and directly, a change in what programs get made and how long they stick around. Commercials could soon become more common, and services may be bundled (for one low monthly price!), already triggering visions of a future that recalls the dark days of cable.

The list of seismic rumblings in recent weeks is long, as chronicled in the Hollywood Reporter, Variety and elsewhere: Warner Bros. Discovery is cutting shows from its archives and unfinished movies from HBO Max as it prepares to merge it with its sister streaming service Discovery Plus, having promised its shareholders a $3 billion cut in costs. Faced with a plunging stock price and worrisome subscriber loss, Netflix plans to add an advertising-supported model for a lower price and may crack down on password sharing. Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus, which can all be subscribed to in a cable-esque bundle, are raising prices after taking a more than $1 billion hit in the fiscal third quarter. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime just debuted the most expensive show ever made — a Lord of the Rings drama — in hopes to gain ground in a crowded market.

“The streaming services are moving more toward becoming more similar to the broadcast networks and cable networks that existed before,” said Tim Doyle, a TV writer and producer who has been in the industry for more than three decades. “They’ve suddenly come up with this great idea that if you put in advertising, you can make money selling the ads! So they’re basically just kind of retreating back to the things that are familiar.”

The fear of having your show or movie deleted on an executive’s whim — a growing reality for many, including Katai — is compounded by the fact that in the post-DVD digital age, viewers may never be able to access the shows again. Showrunners might not even have physical copies of their own work. And that’s not the only downside for creators. . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

11 September 2022 at 1:19 pm

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