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Saturday, July 28, 2012

CD of new Hanukkah songs in the works: Mrs. Maccabee's Kitchen

Mrs. Maccabee's Kitchen new Hanukkah music from MappamundiIn MUCH better news, Aviva Enoch and I went into the Rubber Room studio with Jim Baird and Ken Bloom of Mappamundi on Tuesday and recorded the main tracks for the 18 songs on the upcoming cd Mrs. Maccabee's Kitchen - New Hanukah songs.

Aviva and I did a few Hannukah concerts last year and the year before and after that (and after 14 years of being director of the Triangle Jewish Chorale) I am so tired of the same few Hanukkah songs year after year... so I started writing a few myself last year and solicited contributions and now it's on the way!

Put your email address in this form and click "subscribe" if you'd like to be notified when the cd is ready - you'll get a 10% discount when it comes out (probably late September):

Meanwhile, down on the farm....

... the animal kingdom is one problem after another.

Julius the dog is still scratching after my son got him the expensive flea medicine...

Hector the donkey has decided he no longer cares if he's near Jethro (remember, I GOT Hector specifically to be Jethro's friend). Since Hector is small and wiley he slips out of the fence and spends all day eating the grass while Jethro watches him woefully from behind the fence...

The worst thing is the chickens, it seems they suffer their worst tragedies in the summers. One summer the electronic eye door opener battery died when the door was in the down position, and the chickens died of the heat. Another summer the battery died in the up position while I was out of town, and a raccoon went into the coop and killed eight chickens, leaving their guts strewn all over the place and bloody raccoon prints on the inside of the door in case I wasn't sure of the culprit.

This time the carnage began with one of my beautiful barred rock hens upside down dead in the driveway one morning. The next night four chickens just - disappeared. And after that the chickens didn't want to go in their coop any more. A week later, four more disappeared, and sadly, one of them was my most senior hen, a glorious glossy black matron who adopted the one chick who survived a harrowing trip from Ohio -- the United States Post Office left these chicks somewhere for an extra day and by the time the box got to my post office, it contained five corpses and one living chicken shrieking her head off - I put her with the black hen and they were inseparable and adorable for a week and a half, until the adoptive mother was killed one morning...

We decided maybe it was foxes or coyotes coming in the early morning hours and waiting outside the coop for the door to open, then the chickens walked right out into the predators' jaws...

So in the storms these last nights, no chickens at all went to the coop. Ezra and I put on our rain jackets and prowl around the house with flashlights, looking for them. Last night I found all the remaining hens but one and stuffed them all in the hen house and closed the door.

This morning I went down and manually opened the door. And it was like one of those British murders in the study behind the locked door - even though I'd closed the door myself at night and opened it in the morning, somehow after six years of my coop being a reliable safe house (except when the batteries fail), suddenly now some predator has figured out how to get into the coop, kill a chicken and eat it all but the feathers and the feet, and leave again. How? It's a mystery.

I have gotten so much joy out of my chickens but now that we appear to be running a buffet for carnivores, the fun is gone. I may have to give up.

Friday, July 27, 2012

My favorite peach cake recipe

I have made seven or so peach cakes this season, trying to get the recipe just the way I wanted it. Here it is, in my opinion it's perfect.

The Best Peach Cake Recipe

3/4 cup butter
7/8 cup sugar (I used half brown sugar and half white sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt (generous)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs, separated
2 cups flour
3-1/2 cups peaches, c. 3/8" diced

Butter and flour a tube pan (alternately, use two 9" square pans - then it cooks faster)

Cream butter, sugar, salt, spices, soda and powder. Beat in the egg yolks.

Beat the egg whites until stiff.

Put the chopped peaches, flour, and fluffy egg whites in the bowl and fold together well.

Drop into tube pan, smooth. Cook at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes (check carefully as riper peaches cook faster). Don't burn your mouth, let it cool.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Do I need permission to record alternate / parody lyrics to songs which are copyright protected?

In the early 1990s the acappella group I directed, the Solstice Assembly, did a recording called "Under the Drawbridge." We named the album and then found out that the publishing company holding the rights to the song "Under the Boardwalk" refused us permission to record our parody. Luckily we found out before we wasted the money to record it. Ever since then I have been very wary of recording any copyrighted material at all.

Soon after that recording was issued, I now discover, the law on use of parodic lyrics was clarified. In Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music,  (1994) the United States Supreme Court established that a commercial parody can qualify as fair use. "That money is made does not make it impossible for a use to be fair... Parodies in general will rarely substitute for the original work, since the two works serve different market functions."

I'm doing a Hanukah album with three songs that fall into this troubling category and am trying to figure out if I have to get permission to record them, or if paying the licensing fee is sufficient and I don't need permission to sing new lyrics to old songs.

Columbia Pictures Corp. v. National Broadcasting Co. 1955: "A parody is entitled at least to "conjure up" the original. Even more extensive use would still be fair use, provided the parody builds upon the original, using the original as a known element of modern culture and contributing something new for humorous effect or commentary."

In Berlin v. E. C. Publications, Inc. Irving R. Kaufman, Circuit Judge, wrote

Irving BERLIN et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. E. C. PUBLICATIONS, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellees, United States Court of Appeals Second Circuit. Argued January 10, 1964. Decided March 23, 1964. IRVING R. KAUFMAN, Circuit Judge, wrote:

Through depression and boom, war and peace, Tin Pan Alley has light-heartedly insisted that "the whole world laughs" with a laugher, and that "the best things in life are free." In an apparent departure from these delightful sentiments, the owners of the copyrights upon some twenty-five popular songs instituted this action against the publishers, employees and distributors of "Mad Magazine," alleging that Mad's publication of satiric parody lyrics to plaintiffs' songs infringed the copyrighted originals...

The validity of plaintiffs' copyrights has never been challenged, and we need concern ourselves here only with the nature, purpose and effect of the alleged infringements.

... the plaintiffs have not asserted that the music-buying public could have had any difficulty in differentiating between the works of plaintiffs and defendants. Neither is there a claim that defendants' parodies might satisfy or even partially fulfill the demand for plaintiffs' originals; quite soundly, it is not suggested that "Louella Schwartz Describes Her Malady" might be an acceptable substitute for a potential patron of "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody."

Rather, plaintiffs ... reject the notion that a parody or burlesque version of the original may ever be justified as the sort of "fair use" which traditionally has permitted a literary critic to employ limited quotations from the copyrighted work under review.

While indeed broad, the area in which a copyright proprietor is permitted the exclusive commercial benefits of his copyrighted work is clearly not without limit...

Turning to the specific question before us, we find that the extent to which a parodist may borrow from the work he attempts to burlesque is largely unsettled. ... Most contemporary discussions of the treatment to be afforded parody were stimulated by two related cases ... Loew's, Inc. v. Columbia Broadcasting System ... and Columbia Pictures Corp. v. National Broadcasting Co....

In the Loew's case, television comedian Jack Benny was alleged to have infringed the copyright upon "Gaslight," a motion picture which he satirized in a televised sketch entitled "Autolight"; in the Columbia litigation, "From Here to Obscurity," a television burlesque by comedian Sid Caesar upon the screen version of "From Here to Eternity," was at issue. Although the same District Judge wrote the opinions in both cases, the plaintiffs were permitted to recover for the Benny parody, but were denied relief in the Caesar case.

... in Benny's case ... not only had the parody followed the general plot of the original motion picture, but specific incidents and details had been copied and extensive portions of the dialogue had been reproduced verbatim. It was this borrowing from the original to a far greater degree than that required if the parody is to "recall or conjure up" that original, which caused the court to reject the defense of "burlesque"

But despite Benny's "borrowing" of substantially more material from the copyrighted original than was necessary for a successful burlesque, the Benny holding and its accompanying dictum suggesting that parody could not be justified as "fair use" was roundly criticized by many commentators. See, e. g., Comment, Parody and the Law of Copyright, 29 Fordham L.Rev. 570 (1961); Note, Parody and Burlesque — Fair Use or Copyright Infringement?, 12 Vand.L. Rev. 459 (1959); Note, Parody and Copyright Infringement, 56 Colum.L.Rev. 585 (1956). But see Selvin,2 Parody and Burlesque of Copyrighted Works as Infringement, 6 Copyright Soc'y Bull. 53 (1958). Several scholars believed that the decisions of both the District Court and the Court of Appeals were unduly restrictive; the fear was expressed that the art of parody, which has thrived from the time of Chaucer to, on a somewhat different level, the current vogue for the lyrics of Allen Sherman, would be stifled if its propriety were tested entirely by the precise amount appropriated from the original.

In the present case ... We believe in any event that the parody lyrics involved in this appeal would be permissible under the most rigorous application of the "substantiality" requirement. The disparities in theme, content and style between the original lyrics and the alleged infringements could hardly be greater. ... the humorous effect achieved when a familiar line is interposed in a totally incongruous setting, traditionally a tool of parodists, scarcely amounts to a "substantial" taking ... we doubt that even so eminent a composer as plaintiff Irving Berlin should be permitted to claim a property interest in iambic pentameter.

... While the social interest in encouraging the broad-gauged burlesques of Mad Magazine is admittedly not readily apparent, and our individual tastes may prefer a more subtle brand of humor ... we believe that parody and satire are deserving of substantial freedom — both as entertainment and as a form of social and literary criticism.

At the very least, where, as here, it is clear that the parody has neither the intent nor the effect of fulfilling the demand for the original ... a finding of infringement would be improper.

ELSMERE MUSIC, INC., v. NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMPANY, United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. Argued May 28, 1980. Decided June 9, 1980:

This copyright infringement suit concerns a skit, shown on the television program "Saturday Night Live," poking fun at New York City's public relations campaign and its theme song. In the four-minute skit the town fathers of Sodom discuss a plan to improve their city's image. The satire ends with the singing of "I Love Sodom" to the tune of "I Love New York." The District Court for the Southern District of New York (Gerard L. Goettel, Judge) rejected appellant's claim of copyright infringement, concluding that the parody was protected fair use. Believing that, in today's world of often unrelieved solemnity, copyright law should be hospitable to the humor of parody, and that the District Court correctly applied the doctrine of fair use, we affirm on Judge Goettel's thorough opinion.1 482 F.Supp. 741.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How to get .vob files turned into .avi files so they can be imported into Windows 7 Moviemaker

Geek post.

I just spent a day trying out various programs so I thought I'd post the way I finally succeeded in ripping my files from a dvd of a concert onto my hard drive and converting them to a file format which is compatible with Windows 7 Movie Maker.

The dvd has a folder on it called VIDEO_TS and in it were a bunch of files. The only ones which turned out to matter in this project were the ones with .vob extension. There was series of them, all with the same length (1,048,544 KB) and creation time. I eventually figured out they were the whole concert broken into five pieces.

I found it helpful to close every program on my laptop and reboot before trying to copy these files onto my hard drive (none of the programs I tried were willing to read off the dvd drive), otherwise it took forever. I downloaded all five of the sequential VOB files (they were named VTS_01_1.VOB etc) onto my hard drive.

I tried bunches of programs to convert them but the one which worked was Format Factory. I converted my files to .avi format (which I knew Movie Maker can read) but it will do all these other conversions too according to the website:

Rip DVD to video file , Rip Music CD to audio file.
MP4 files support iPod/iPhone/PSP/BlackBerry format.
Supports RMVB,Watermark, AV Mux.

Then I just imported the .avi files into Windows Movie Maker and started slicing them up. It sounds easy but there were some hair-tearing hours... good luck to you.

ps if you are not careful you'll allow Format Factory to stick the Ask search engine toolbar onto your computer. Then even after you go to the control panel and uninstall it, it will still be there! You have to go into your browser settings (in Chrome, click the wrench icon and then Tools and Settings) to get rid of it.