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This is the archive for July 2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Did you know that a company has decided to trademark the words "Civil War"?

I was just as surprised as you, so let me give you some background.

Marvel Comics
, the Comic Book company that has created such characters as Spiderman, The Hulk, Captain America, The Fantastic Four and The XMen, currently is going through a Civil War among its super heroes. After a series of events that saw the public growing weary of the destruction that follows a Hero vs. Villain fight, the last straw comes as a battle results in the destruction of a school and neighborhood along with the death of many in in the area.

The US government passes legislation titled the Superhuman Registration Act, requiring all superheroes - "intending to register all super-powered beings as living weapons of mass destruction and requiring all costumed heroes to unmask themselves before the government and subject themselves to federally mandated standards." Those that don't join are declared outlaws and subject to arrest and prosecution. Any person that helps a fugitive hero is also subject to persecution. You can read more about it by going here.

Although not into comics as much as I was when I was a child, my two sons are becoming huge fans. So each week I take them to the local Comic Book store and they pick up a few books. I've been picking up the Civil War issues as it has been quite interesting watching the heroes that I grew up with, that were friends and always fighting a common enemy, split and become enemies themselves. Captain America, the living embodiment of America (in the Marvel Universe), the hero that actually works for the government, goes underground and gathers up other heroes who disagree with the SRA in a resistance movement.

It has been a huge windfall for Marvel, selling comics at a rate that has not been seen for almost a decade and they are making money hand over foot. And they look to be trying to "protect" their earning potential with the use of a trademark. Previous issues did not have a TM but the issues released this week, did. They even have one of their characters comment on it during a soliloquy in the beginning of his book -

"Once, a tragic divide rocked the stars and stripes. Civil strife pitched brother against brother, blue against grey.

It was a terrible time, blood and guts and everything in very depressing sepia.

It was called the War Between the States, but now we call it The Civil War, Like we own the title or something...

... and now Marvel has their very own Civil War tm -- do we have a tm? We are talking about trademark lawyers who once tried to put a tm on the word Death tm..."

- Cable and Deadpool, issue 30, July 2006

So I went to the United States Patent and Trademark Office and did a search on "Civil War" and returned 59 TM applications for the words Civil War, either by themselves or as part of a larger statement. Most are part of titles like "Where the Civil War began" or a logo as in "American Civil War Musueum" but there is no mention of Marvel's TM. There is one for Take Two entertainment, a video game developer for "American Civil War" which seams pretty strange too.

I guess I am wondering just what is being trademarked and how does it affect me?

I'm going to assume it's for the comic book media only. If it is - does that mean the next publisher that tries to create a series on the Civil War, yes the real one, not one with Super Heroes, is going to be sued by Marvel because they own the rights? Maybe it's all too silly and I shouldn't worry at all.

But then again, what if its not? Before you answer you have to be kidding, read this interesting tale of a woman, a restaurant and an electronics company, all with the same name. Funny how the little guy seems to lose in a situation like this.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A friend and I were talking the other day and we got on the subject of blogging. When I mentioned that I blogged, he asked on what. As I started to explain that it was on the Civil War, he interrupted, “You know that it’s over don’t you?”

I misunderstood him at first and thought he was talking about the trend of blogging – when I realized, nope he was talking about the Civil War.

Oh well, I am a bit behind the times…..

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Pinstripe Press and I seemed to have had the same worry on Thursday – The Museum of the Confederacy and its ongoing monetary problems.

Unfortunately we seem to differ on what can be done by the average citizen. To quote his posting on the MOC:

“…so I am screaming it... “SHAME ON YOU!”

It doesn't help. I'm angry because I feel helpless. I don’t have a few hundred thousand laying around or I would contribute something... maybe I should go chain myself to the doors? Pickett the hospital with a sign? Write another letter? My point is that I really CAN'T do anything. None of us can.”

I have to respectfully disagree with the conclusion that “none of us can” do anything.

All you have to do is visit the Lance Armstrong Foundation to see the impact of a lot of small, individual donations. Those little yellow “LiveStrong™” wristbands are currently worn by 55 million people, each bought at $1 a piece, the proceeds of which go to the foundation.

Take a look at Room to Read, a nonprofit started by one man - John Wood, who while hiking in Nepal visited a poor school with an almost empty library. The few books they had were kept locked up because books were so valuable. As he left, a young student asked if next time he visited, could he bring back some books. He sent an email out to his friends asking for donations so he could just that and ended up bringing back over 3000 books. John went on to quit a very successful job with Microsoft and founded Room to Read which to date has constructed 197 schools, established 2,565 libraries, 60 computer labs, 20 language labs and given over 1.1 million English language books.

My point is, we all can do something and do it easily and painlessly by spending a little less on our normal “fun” money and instead become a member or just plain donate directly to MOC.

You can have an impact and it can be great; you just need to choose to do it.

To learn more about membership in The Museum of theConfederacy, click here
To learn more about donating to The Museum of the Confederacy, click here

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Today I read an article which stunned me.

Simply put, The Museum of the Confederacy was hoping for a $700,000 grant from the state of Virginia for operating expenses and instead received $50,000. Less than 10% of what was asked/expected and it puts them in a deep hole and could cause major problems in keeping the museum open. Yes, I had heard of this last month but the consequences pointed out in the article is what stunned me

See, the museum is considered a treasure trove, to quote the article –

The museum is known nationwide for its “irreplaceable collections,” says Conover Hunt, executive director of the Historic Richmond Foundation. Unlike other Civil War museums, the Museum of the Confederacy received many of its artifacts directly from veterans and their families, Hunt says.

And although no one will confirm, rumors are flying that the museum may need to sell some of it’s artifacts to stay afloat. Heck the Executive Director said it might happen last year but most felt it was an empty threat.

While it is fairly common for a museum to sell to other museums, it is becoming more common for individuals to outbid museums and take it into private collections – far away from the public eye. Some of the Civil War’s most prized possessions could very well disappear.

You may think this is over blowing the situation but read up on the world of nonprofits and their funding and you will see it is a rational conclusion. It is the nature of the beast, in order to run a nonprofit; you are always looking for ways to get money in and keep your organization going. And in a situation like this, every dollar counts – heck every penny counts.

So what can you and I do to help out?

Simple - this month don’t buy a book on the Civil War. Instead save your money and help out the museum by becoming a member or just flat out donate a few bucks.

If you live outside of the Richmond area, a membership only costs $30 - about the price of the last few books I bought! Instead, just read some of the older books you have.

If you don’t want to become a member or donate and just have to buy something, try out the market place at Benevolink where by following this link a portion of every purchase will go to the museum.

I encourage you to help save this landmark institution – stop reading this blog and become a member. If you are a fellow blogger, help me on this noble cause and let your readers know too!

But then come back and read the blog some more, don’t stay away too long - I'll get lonley.

To learn more about membership in The Museum of theConfederacy, click here
To learn more about donating to The Museum of the Confederacy, click here
To use the Benevolink market place, click here

Thursday, July 06, 2006

God bless Civil War Reenactors for running around in wool uniforms in scorching heat, for wearing authentic reproduction undergarments, for eating authentic hardtack from great-grandmother’s family recipes, for shooting cap guns while playing war, and generally surrendering their lives to something they view as important. I’m saying this tongue in cheek, because I know the men and women who participate in reenactments take their roles and their Civil War history seriously. As a friend of mine once told me, trying to break down my resistance to this activity, “Once you put on the uniform, it changes everything.” George was a member of a 54th Massachusetts reenacters group from the Washington, DC area, and he had the privilege of standing right behind Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman during the climatic speech given on the beach by Matthew Broderick in the movie Glory. I always responded, because George was persistent in trying to sell his uniform and equipment to me, that I had been in the Army and had no desire to play soldier, again.

While the dedication and attempt at realism are impressive, and, I have attended my fair share of reenactments, I always walk away with the same impression. It ain’t real. No one gets gut shot, no one has their head blown apart, no one losses an arm or a leg to a surgeon’s saw, no one succumbs to chronic diarrhea. And no one dies in the first 15 minutes of a battle. One of the most ludicrous scenes I’ve ever witnessed occurred at a reenactment at Gettysburg. A contingent of about 40 Confederate Reenactors were within 25 yards of approximately 200 Union Reenactors. The Union troops fired their weapons in a mass volley and only two or three Confederate Reenactors fell to the ground. The stands erupted with laughter, which is testimony to the fact that I was not the only one who reacted to the scene the way I did. Still I give Reenactors their due for bringing authenticity to films such as Glory and Gods and Generals.

While Reenactors are serious about the Civil War, so am I. And for this reason I had an adverse reaction when I recently made a visit to the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. A circular brick walk fronts the museum, The Walk of Valor, with imbedded stone tablets listing the State and the number of men from that State who died in the service of their cause. The museum offers the opportunity to honor an individual soldier through the purchase of a brick and, after inscribing it with the name, rank, company, and regiment, will then place it in the appropriate State section.

I’m always humbled and feel honored to be in places that memorialize our Civil War veterans. At times it can be quite emotional and I admit that I wept when I stood at the grave of Brigadier General Joseph Hayes in South Berwick, Maine, Hayes being a former commander of the 18th Massachusetts Infantry.

But those feelings can evaporate in a second when you see a brick inscribed with a name and the following inscription “Reenactor, 28th Mass. Vol. Inf.” If the truth be told I would venture to guess that person has died at reenactments at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Antietam, and other locales countless times. So, maybe, just maybe, I feel justified in telling at least one reenactor to “Get a life, buddy!,” because sacrifice, duty, and honor is not something you reenact in your mind.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Brian over at behind AotW has a very interesting post on if there is any good that comes from allowing advertising on one’s blog. By his calculation, over a third of the sites that he has links to, place advertisements on their pages – Touch the Elbow is one of them, and he asks why would you do it? To him, it seems like it muddies one’s credibility and cheapens the site.

I started this post out as a comment for Brian’s site but it got too long and I felt it would be better for me to just put it here.

First off, I am no expert in History much less the Civil War. But I am an expert of the 18th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and I love researching the war that it took part in. Because of this, I tend to want to share my thoughts and experiences with others. It is very egotistical of me to think others would want to read about my adventures and I am amazed over this fact as much as others. Sometimes I think the only reason people read is to laugh at the outrageousness of it all.

Touch the Elbow is a spin-off of the 18th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Site. It started like most of our projects, someone mentioning wouldn’t it be great if, the other two agreeing it would and then the originally taking it and running with it. This is how just about everything we have done over the past 10 years has happened. It works well for us and if one of us doesn’t have time to help, we do not begrudge him. So even though this is a collaborative site, I have been the only one to post since we started it up. Mainly, because I’m addicted to it but that is a story for another day.

For the last 5 years, has had advertising on it for two reasons, to provide an easy link to any book we have talked about (since we are providing a link, we might as well have Amazon give us a bit of money) and to supplement our research fund. As most Civil War Enthusiasts already know, this “hobby” continues to get more expensive year after year. When Donald and I meet Steve through eBay, we competed over an ID’ed CDV which at the time, this sort of thing was averaging about $40-$50 – now the last one I saw for the unit, hit $150.

I had a personal hit over the last year dealing with pieces of the war and cost. A large collection of my Great-Great Grandfather’s stuff came on the market. Pictures, letters, diaries, battle souvenirs all together and it could have been mine, for $30,000. Guess what? I can barely afford the CDV’s at $50 much less a collection at $30k – which just happens to be the median annual salary of a citizen in SC. So I watched it slip through my fingers, unable to even look at the letters and diaries as the seller felt it would lessen the value.

So, our advertising goes directly to picking up pieces of the 18th as time goes by. Do we get much? Not at all and I really don’t think we ever will. But if one day I happen to get a check from Google and there happens to be a Shako for sale at the same time – perhaps I can get it; instead of letting someone else get it like I am right now.

I try to keep the ads unobtrusive and not everything will have a link. The Butler Center books that I have mentioned twice over the last two weeks, have no ad connection at all. Like everything on this blog, if I like it, I talk about it, if I don’t they are not going to make their way onto the page. I have friends though he keep me posted on if they think the ads are getting out of control - just a bit over to the right, that's all at this point.

One other thing Brian brings up is the control of ads. Yes, you can prevent ads of predetermined specifications to be banned from your site. I have yet to see any hit our page though that I have had an issue with.

I would like to pose a few questions myself for those against ads. Does the NY Times lose credibility because it accepts ads on its pages? Should I stop believing CNN because the partner with Yahoo or should I believe anything they say when they talk about AOL, since they belong to the same corporate umbrella?

The reality is, ads are part of the general landscape and the only reason that they disappeared for awhile back in the late 90s was that no one could figure out how to make money off of it, until Google came around. Even the so-called free sites, advertise their website – checkout any of the pages – so what am I to think of them? So whether we like them or not, we will probably see some form of ads stay forever. Or at least until the Internet goes the way of the Tandy TRS80.