A new beginning…

George Street Playhouse logoI am pleased to announce that I will be joining the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, N.J., as a marketing and public relations associate.

It has been a long-time dream of mine to work in the arts, and that dream has finally come true. That makes this move, essentially, a career reboot for me so it feels very much like a new beginning. I know I will love every bit of the experience, though.

Very soon, I will be helping to share the many stories of George Street Playhouse, especially those focusing on its amazing educational programs, and advancing the playhouse’s mission of enriching people’s lives by producing world-class theatre.

I am very proud and humbled to be joining the wonderful staff at the George Street Playhouse. For more information about the theater, please visit http://georgestreetplayhouse.org or check out the George Street Playhouse on Facebook and Twitter.

That “Xmas Jammies” video everyone loves? It’s obnoxious, exploitative and probably illegal

The Internet has fallen in love with the Holderness family’s “Xmas Jammies”—set to Will Smith’s “Miami” (a lot more on that in a bit)—family Christmas video that has gone viral. I’ve seen media reports telling me that the video puts my family’s Christmas card to shame or makes ours look lame. People think it’s absolutely adorable.

Well, you know what? My family’s plain ol’ Christmas card features my family…and I can honestly say that none of us are as lame as that uninspired, unoriginal video. Here’s the other thing…my family’s Christmas card was made to simply wish our friends and families a Merry Christmas—that’s it. The “Xmas Jammies” video was designed to go viral as a promotional tool for the communications business run by the husband and wife, Penn and Kim Holderness, called Greenroom Communications. In fact, the video is posted to the company’s YouTube channel and you will clearly see these words under the video:

Want a video like this for your family or company? Holla at us: info@visitthegreenroom.com

Which begs these questions:

Do I want my family to look completely obnoxious and better than everybody else in a video that goes viral around the world?

No thanks…I’ll pass.

Do I want a video that exploits my children and is more of a commercial for my business than an actual heartfelt family Christmas video?

Um…again, no. That seems slimy.

Finally, do I want a video that’s going to potentially get me sued by record labels, music publishers, Will Smith and The Whispers, whose 1980 hit “And the Beat Goes On” is the primary sample at the heart of “Miami”?


Let’s talk about this last part. Many people believe that if you simply put different lyrics to a popular song, it is considered a parody, which is traditionally considered fair use of copyrighted material. But guess what? That is not how the U.S. Supreme Court has described parody.

In a guest post for Forbes.com published in 2012, intellectual property lawyer Kenneth Liu of McLean, Va.-based Gammon & Grange discussed the legality of all the so-called parodies going around of Psy’s viral hit “Gangnam Style.” While many could be considered parody, many of the videos made in response to “Gangnam Style” were not, in fact, parodies and could have easily faced legal challenges if Psy and other rights-holders chose to go that route.

Liu cited one of the most famous cases involving a parody challenged by a copyright holder, Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. Back in the late 1980s, the rap group 2 Live Crew wanted to record a parody of the Roy Orbison classic, “Oh Pretty Woman.” 2 Live Crew had asked for permission to use elements of the original for the parody, but the rights-holder, Acuff-Rose Music, denied the request. However, feeling that it was protected from copyright infringement as a parody, 2 Live Crew recorded the song anyway and released it on their 1989 album, As Clean as They Wanna Be.

Acuff-Rose Music sued 2 Live Crew for copyright infringement and the legal battle went back and forth. After 2 Live Crew scored a victory in a district court decision, Acuff-Rose Music won a decision in the Court of Appeals. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993. In early 1994, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision and remanded the case. However, the Court determined that 2 Live Crew’s “Pretty Woman” was a parody of “Oh Pretty Woman” and constituted fair use of copyrighted material.

In addition to determining that the 2 Live Crew song was targeted at a completely different market and that it would not substantially undermine sales of Orbison’s original, the Supreme Court said that 2 Live Crew’s version met the definition of parody. According to Liu, the “key to the Court’s decision was that 2 Live Crew transformed Orbison’s song into something new that ridiculed the original.”

More importantly, the Court pointed out the difference between parody and satire, which is generally not accepted as fair use. As Liu wrote in his 2012 Forbes.com guest post:

A parody is a work that imitates the characteristic style of another artist or his work for comic effect or ridicule…Many artists believe they are making parodies when they borrow someone else’s work to make fun of something, but they are actually only making satirical use of the other work. And it is this act of “borrowing” another work that is infringing. The Supreme Court essentially stated that borrowing another work for the purpose of satire is lazy — it avoids “the drudgery in working up something fresh.”

So let’s examine “Xmas Jammies” and see if it meets the criteria for a parody based on the words above. Well, right off the bat, the lyrics are not parodying Will Smith’s “Miami.” The Holderness family—those self-professed media experts who want to make you your own copyright-infringing viral video—simply wrote new lyrics to a copyright-protected song. Really, it’s not even satire. They simply—and lazily—”borrowed” a copyright-protected song and made it their own. And the song they “borrowed” is built upon a sample of The Whispers’ 1980 hit “And the Beat Goes On.” Will Smith received permission to use that sample for “Miami,” but someone else wanting to use that sample would have to obtain their own permission to do so. In essence, the Holderness family really needed to get all the appropriate licenses to use two different songs for “Xmas Jammies.”

Unless the Holderness family obtained the rights from Will Smith, The Whispers and—I believe—the publishing rights holders of both “Miami” and “And the Beat Goes On”—which I seriously doubt (the lack of attribution on the video’s YouTube page is telling)—the video that everyone is raving about is actually an obnoxious, far-reaching violation of copyright law. The fact that “Xmas Jammies” was published on Greenroom Communications’ YouTube channel means that this was produced simply to attract visitors to a commercial entity. There is no way that using copyrighted material in a promotional tool for business will pass a “fair use” test.

Nobody seems to have noticed any of this…yet. But I’m pretty sure as the YouTube hits keep climbing and Greenroom Communications starts profiting from the exposure, you’re going to see the rights-holders of “Miami” and “And the Beat Goes On” start filing lawsuits.

Sorry to be a grinch and I don’t mean to rain on the Holderness family’s parade, but “Xmas Jammies” shouldn’t be celebrated. In fact, it represents all that is wrong in this current climate of “affluenza” and an overinflated sense of entitlement. You can’t just steal the copyright-protected, creative work of others for what is essentially a commercial for a business and innocently play it off as your family’s video Christmas card…and then gain fame (or infamy) and have your company profit from it. You should have to play by the rules like everybody else. Just because you are able to do something with modern technology doesn’t mean you legally can.

Also, if you want to see the video, you can find it on YouTube. I’m not contributing to the insanity by linking to it.

Watch a rocket go from Virginia to the moon tonight*

The inaugural launch of a Minotaur V rocket is scheduled for tonight at 11:27 p.m. EDT. The rocket will lift off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast and will carry the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission to the moon.

The launch should be visible to many in the mid-Atlantic and northeast United States, including most of us here in New Jersey. Just look to the southeast 10-20 degrees above the horizon (central NJ should see it about 15 degrees above the horizon) one or two minutes after launch (obviously, there could be delays…or even a scrub for various reasons).

Detailed instructions on how to view the launch from your location

Follow @nasa_wallops on Twitter or follow the latest mission updates before you stake out your preferred viewing location.


(Photo: NASA Wallops/Patrick Black)



The Doctor’s new assistant is…Karen Gillan

Karen Gillan will play the companion to Matt Smiths 11th Doctor in Doctor Who.
Karen Gillan will play the companion to Matt Smith's 11th Doctor in "Doctor Who."

The BBC has announced that 21-year-old relatively unknown actress Karen Gillan will step into the TARDIS as the companion in “Doctor Who” when Matt Smith takes over as the 11th Doctor in 2010.

Gillan has already appeared in “Doctor Who,” portraying a soothsayer in the season four episode, “The Fires of Pompeii.”

Executive Producer and Head of Drama BBC Wales Piers Wenger said, ‘We knew Karen was perfect for the role the moment we saw her. She brought an energy and excitement to the part that was just fantastic. And when she auditioned alongside Matt we knew we had something special.’

Meanwhile, current Doctor, David Tennant, will star in three more “Doctor Who” specials to air later this year before Smith takes over the role.

Tennant will be the new host of PBS’ “Masterpiece Contemporary” series when it returns in October.

Coach Wolf, you’re a legend…but please step aside now

So I am several days late with this, but I only found out about this from my dad a few days ago and hadn’t had a chance to put a post up…

Legendary Brick Township High School football coach Warren Wolf, who retired last December after compiling a 361-122-11 record in 51 seasons at the school, told the Brick Board of Education during its April 29 meeting that he wanted to rescind his retirement because of the board’s decision to hire former Allentown High School coach Patrick Dowling as Wolf’s replacement.

The 81-year-old Wolf, before an audience of 70-100 supporters wearing green “SAVE the TRADITION and PRIDE” t-shirts, told the board:

“I’m terribly concerned and disappointed that you would recommend someone other than a Brick Township boy…You’re doing this either because you hate Brick Township football, or you hate Warren Wolf.”

Yes, that’s right…Wolf apparently referred to himself in the third person.

Wolf, who said he talked to Dowling and told him he would not support his hiring (way to stay classy, Coach Wolf), then announced that he would rescind his retirement and return to coaching rather than see the program be turned over to an outsider.

Nice job of stepping aside gracefully, Warren.

Here is more from the Asbury Park Press:

Scott Lloyd, 39, called the football program an institution here.

John Barrett, 39, told the board it destroyed the tradition Wolf had built during his 51 years with their prospective decision.

“This is not what Mr. Wolf built,” Barrett said. “Now, no matter who gets this job, it’s been tarnished — this should have been the best job in the state and it can’t be that.”

Wolf, 81, has a record of 361-122-11 in 51 seasons. Brick won six on the field NJSIAA sectional championships and 25 Shore Conference divisional titles under him.

Brick actually won a share of the Shore Conference Constitution division title in Wolf’s last season, but they finished just 6-4 and tied with Colts Neck and Toms River East. And in Wolf’s final game, Brick beat cross-town rival — and eventual NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV champion — Brick Memorial.

But Brick was mediocre, at best…and they have been that way for many years now. I went to Brick’s home playoff game against Triton on November 15 and Brick was completely outcoached in a 28-7 loss. Also, I’m pretty sure it was the same 75-100 people at the Board of Education meeting who were the only ones in the Brick stands that game.

News flash to longtime Brick fans — and I am one of them: The Wolf Era is Over! Is mediocrity the TRADITION and PRIDE you want to SAVE? (Apparently, those three words must always be spelled with capital letters in Brick…at least, according to the t-shirts.)

When he announced his retirement, I remember talking to my dad and saying, “You know, I hope the powers that be don’t feel pressured to hire ‘a Brick guy’ to replace Wolf. I think after 51 seasons, it might be time for some new blood.”

And, in a very “non-Brick” move, the Board of Education did just that. The finalists for the coaching job were determined by a selection committee consisting of Brick Township principal Dennis Filippone, Brick Township athletic director Rick Handchen, Brick Memorial principal Richard Caldes and Brick Memorial athletic director Bill Bruno.

Filippone and Caldes were FORMER BRICK PLAYERS UNDER WOLF. If they felt it was so important for “a Brick boy” to get the job, then why did the panel recommend Dowling? Apparently, it wasn’t that much of an issue for them.

These four people interviewed nine candidates on Feb. 12-17 and recommended three finalists on April 1.

Now, according to the Asbury Park Press Pigskin Pundits blog, here is how the final decision was made:

Schools Superintendent Walter Hrycenko said that Dowling is the best candidate out of those who applied for the position. Hrycenko cited Dowling’s experience, his success as a coach and his credentials as a special education teacher as the main reasons for his selection.

“Of those who applied, Pat Dowling had the most coaching experience,” said Hrycenko. “He has an impressive resume and he gave the best interview.”

Hrycenko said the hiring process was the same employed when the district hired Walt Currie to become the Brick Memorial coach in 2007.

Currie won a Central Jersey Group IV championship in his second year at Brick Memorial, so maybe Wolf and Brick football fans should give the new coach a chance.

But back to Dowling…from what I have read, his coaching experience doesn’t appear all that impressive. But replacing the only coach BTHS has ever known is a difficult situation and he is definitely used to that. In his only season as Allentown (N.J.) head coach last year, Dowling went just 2-8, but the Redbirds had lost 29 straight games going into that season. In the third game of the 2008 season against Ewing, Dowling guided Allentown to victory, snapping a 31-game losing streak.

Prior to his year at Allentown, Dowling was head coach at Monroe High School for four years, winning 23 games and taking the team to the state playoffs in his final three seasons there. The school won its first-ever playoff game during Dowling’s tenure.

In 1994, Dowling took the reins of a Wood-Ridge High School program mired in a 31-game losing streak and coached the team to victory in his first game as head coach.

Now, another point the Wolf backers are making is that Dowling has had eight coaching jobs in 20 years. Uh, folks, the days of a coach staying put for 51 seasons are over. Actually, I’m pretty sure those days never began. It’s very rare for something like that to happen. But, seriously, if a coach stays at a school for 10 years, that’s pretty amazing in this day and age.

Dowling is 48 years old and has not been a head coach at any of New Jersey’s elite football schools. It is completely understandable that he would be using the Monroe and Allentown high schools of the world in order to eventually take over an elite high school program. Now, Brick used to be an elite program. Perhaps, he can build it up to that point again.

All I know is that Brick’s new football coach shouldn’t be criticized for not being “a Brick boy.” This should be an exciting time for the program…new coach, new blood, new direction. Sure, it may not work out. But there is a chance that it will.

Wolf is the winningest coach in New Jersey high school football history and his 51 seasons at Brick Township High School should be cherished and remembered fondly.

But it’s not like Wolf’s last years were anything spectacular. Back in Brick’s glory days, home playoff games would draw overflow crowds in the thousands. Like I mentioned earlier, only a couple hundred were at the one I attended in November. It’s not like there is a recent wave of success that needs to continue. Let’s face it, the Brick football program needs an overhaul.

It’s time for a change and I am more than willing to support Coach Dowling’s appointment as the next head coach of Brick Township High School’s football team.

And, really, the arrogance and complete lack of class shown by Warren Wolf in this situation makes me want to root for Coach Dowling even more. And it’s a shame I just had to type that last sentence.

Source: Tandem With the Random

A personal memory of Harry Kalas

Harry Kalas (1936-2009)
Harry Kalas (1936-2009)

Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas collapsed at Nationals Park and later died in Washington, D.C., this afternoon, just hours before the Phillies’ game today against the Washington Nationals. He was 73.

I became a Phillies fan in April 1979 and Harry’s voice is practically embedded in my brain — something I am sure I have in common with many other die-hard Phillies fans.

I convinced my family to make the trek up to Cooperstown, N.Y., in 2002 to see Harry enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s broadcasting wing as that year’s Frick Award winner. I even shook Harry’s hand a couple of times in my life, both coming while getting his autograph. However, the second time features a pretty cool Harry the K story.

My friend, Cliff, and I were at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium to see the Phillies play in a spring exhibition game. After the game, we went up to the window of the broadcast booth to get Harry’s autograph. However, Cliff saw the people in front of us give Harry a cell phone and he was either recording a message or talking to somebody. So Cliff decides to call our friend Jimmy — a huge Phillies fan — with the hope that Harry would talk to him for a few seconds.

So we finally approach Harry. After Harry talked to us for a few seconds and signed our programs, my friend handed Harry the phone and asked him if he could just talk to our friend for a bit. Harry says, “Sure, what’s your friend’s name?” We tell him that it’s Jim…Harry takes the phone and all we hear is something like this:

“Hey, Jim, this is Harry Kalas. How are you?…Watching the NCAA Tournament, eh?…Well, take care, Jim. It’s getting late so I am outta heerrrrre!”

We again shook Harry’s hand and thanked him. Cliff puts his phone back up to his ear and hears Jimmy say this: “That was awesome. I gotta call my dad.”

Earlier today, I sent Jimmy a text message saying that I was thinking about that time. In his reply, he said “…that’s how cool Harry was. It’s like a small piece of my life is gone.”

A lot of Phillies fans feel the same way.

RIP, Harry the K…Phillies baseball will never be the same.

(Photo courtesy of Phillies.com)

Reminder: Christian Beach CD release party this Friday

Christian Beach CD Release Party - Click for PDF Flyer
Christian Beach CD Release Party - Click for PDF Flyer

As mentioned earlier on this blog, I will be part of the backing band for my good friend, singer-songwriter Christian Beach, when he takes to the stage at The Saint (601 Main St.) in Asbury Park, NJ, this Friday night as he celebrates the recent release of his self-titled, solo CD.

Joining in the festivities will be Arlan Feiles and The Lone Howdys, as well as The Sunday Blues. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are just $10.

Christian’s band this time out includes John Pfeiffer (Well of Souls, In Between Dreams) on electric guitars, Michael Scotto (Agency) on drums and percussion, Gorgo (Private Sector) on mandolin and bass, Keith McCarthy (The Works, The Sunday Blues) on bass, and yours truly on organ, accordion and tambourine.

If you are in the area and are available that night, please feel free to come to the show. If you want to get a taste of Christian’s music, visit his new web site at ChristianBeach.net, or visit him on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/christianbeach. Plus, he is now on Facebook and Twitter.

The CD can be purchased via CDBaby.com, iTunes or Amazon.com.

Christian Beach
The Saint
601 Main St.
Asbury Park, NJ
(Directions via Google Maps)

What is up with Facebook?

As most people on the Interwebs know by now, social networking giant Facebook made a slight change to its terms of service (TOS) recently that had a big impact on what the site could do with your content.

As the original post on The Consumerist blog reported, the TOS states this:

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.

The original TOS, however, included this passage at the end of the section quoted above:

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

Basically, Facebook’s tweaking of the TOS meant that it had rights to your content forever — even if you cancel your Facebook account!

The uproar caused by The Consumerist post eventually led Facebook to revert back to its old TOS early Wednesday morning — a temporary move by Facebook as it reviews language to create revised TOS that will address the fears and concerns of the site’s users.

However, during all this, I discovered something a bit odd while using FriendFeed, a link-sharing service that has the ability to feed content into my Facebook profile’s “wall.” During the Facebook firestorm over the past few days, I posted two articles about Facebook to my FriendFeed account.

Neither made it onto my Facebook wall.

Every other article and link I shared with FriendFeed made it onto my Facebook wall…but not the two stories I shared that were about Facebook itself. If you happen to be a friend of mine on Facebook, go to my profile and click on the FriendFeed tab. You will see all the links I shared with FriendFeed are there, including the two Facebook-related items.

But go back to my wall…and the two stories are not there. And I did not delete them, that’s for sure.

So this blog post will be another test to see if there is some kind of filtering going on over at Facebook. This blog feeds into my FriendFeed account so it should technically wind up on my Facebook wall.

If it doesn’t, I think Facebook needs to answer why this is happening…because it would look a lot like censorship to me.

And, just to be fair, I will update this post to let any readers down the road know what happened.

Stay tuned!

UPDATE…OK, so this post appeared on my Facebook wall, but there is still something troubling me about why the Facebook news links I shared via FriendFeed did not make it there.