The Beatles Can Save Us!

“Don’t forget The Beatles are coming on in half an hour.”  My Dad, delighted to remind me despite being locked in Beatles gridlock at Idlewild Airport (yes, folks, it wasn’t JFK just yet!) just two days earlier.

“Oh Daddy, we’re already watching TV.” I quipped back, annoyed that he’s already taking my attention from the TV at T-minus 30 minutes!

“Don’t miss The Beatles,” he continued noodging, as only a Dad can do.

the-beatlesAnd so began a decades long love affair with four men I would sadly never meet, yet who continue to influence my life to this day.

And it seems that love affair was shared by director Ron Howard who has delivered a tour de force in “Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years.”  It is a documentary that is nothing short of the perfect homage to The Fab Four as seen through the eyes of an adoring fan and not just a filmmaker.  Their music was truly the soundtrack to our lives and it’s so beautifully woven seamlessly throughout.  The emotion of the frenetic energy that landed on our shores mirrored the social unrest and the awakening of a generational social conscience.  We were raw and ripe for something fresh when The Beatles landed in America.  The Mop Tops were as cute and charming as our late President and when he was cut down too short and the Vietnam War escalated shortly thereafter, The Beatles were our sounding board.  The world placed great weight on the shoulders of The Beatles and they eventually buckled under the strain.

It was a time of innocence amid a time of struggle and strife.  The Beatles were our antidote, social messenger and Dr. Feelgood all rolled into one.

“Well, who do we love this week?”  My Uncle would ask, seeing me weighed down in Beatle Buttons.  I loved them all but my closest connection was to John.  Oh, John never knew it but his voice led to many spirited political discussions with my Dad.  While his music led my Mom to hide her two tickets to Shea Stadium until the morning after the famous concert.  She couldn’t very well take only one of her two Beatle fanatic kids.  So she made the ultimate Mom sacrifice – she didn’t go either.  We loved them all.  We changed with them and we grew with them.  Their lyrics were timely and raised our social awareness without vulgarity or inhumanity.  They were a global force for good.

“Eight Days a Week” brought me right back to those days of innocence.  Those days of Beatle sneakers and sweatshirts, school binders and pencil cases, and yelling at Dad to play them on the car radio.  I sat in a theater of strangers with a shared sense of memory, a shared sense of how we’re all connected.

In the game of “Six Degrees of Separation,” I am lucky enough to be within one degree of John Lennon at least three times over:

  1. In my days at NBC, I interviewed his son Julian.  We had a long, candid chat about life, music and his Dad……and I also interviewed Harry Nilsson who spent many a long, drunken hours with John in a delayed misspent youth.
  2. I enjoyed a business lunch with Sid Bernstein and my Mom, thinking the whole time that he, in fact, would tell me, of all people, that The Beatles were reuniting for beaucoup bucks.  Ah, to dream!
  3. The love of my life was Sean Lennon’s guitar tutor at a time when I assumed that Yoko would be looking for a private school tutor as well.  My resume was secretly passed along and imagine my surprise when Elliot Mintz, John and Yoko’s confidante, called me personally to say that I didn’t get the gig.  Who cared?  I didn’t even know I was in the running at that point.

I was one degree away from Lennon’s memory.  Just one degree from a voice who changed the world with his three best friends.  One degree from a global connection that had a theater full of strangers laughing together last night.

How the world could use The Beatles right now.  Thank you, Ron, for giving them back to us and introducing them to a generation who desperately needs them now.

Antonin Scalia paves the way for change

It’s always a shock when a justice of the Supreme Court dies.  Love ’em, hate ’em, agree or disagree, they are part of a small, elite group of jurists who set the course of justice for an entire country.  Once appointed, they hold their position for life, so it should come as no surprise that to replace one is news making.

I had the honor of meeting Justice Antonin Scalia on the very same day, ten years ago, that I also met Justice Samuel Alito.  For an Italian-American attorney, this was the double-header, to say that I have studied under two justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Heck, it was only a CLE course but how many attorneys can say they got up close and personal with two of The Supremes?

Actually, up close and personal was not exactly what Justice Scalia would allow.  As you can see from the photo, he was not the warm and fuzzy kind and did not want his photo taken with anyone.  Alito, on the other hand, was only too happy to pose when approached with respect and not expectation.

Justice Scalia passed away this past weekend and while his opinions from the bench were always newsworthy, it is his passing that is garnering more than its share of controversy in this Presidential election year.

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Conservative Republicans are playing the stubborn elephants of their party’s mascot, digging in their heels and waving their big trunks, vowing to stall any nomination to the court by President Obama.  Are they that threatened?  No matter who gets appointed, isn’t a judicial nominee supposed to leave their party affiliations at the door of the Supreme Court Building?  Republicans have kicked the sand in the sandbox like spoiled children long enough.  To stall a nomination is not only childish but irresponsible, shackling the court in likely deadlocks for the next eleven months.

If I were President, I’d wait till the kids take their summer recess and then make a recess appointment.  It’s legit.  The President wouldn’t need the approval of the Senate and maybe some cases that mean something could be decided.  A “recess appointed justice” would only hold her position until the end of the next Senate session.  To continue to serve beyond would require a re-appointment and Senate confirmation.  And in our nation’s gloried history, of the ten justices appointed during a recess, only one was not subsequently confirmed by the Senate.

By the way, did you notice that I suggested that “she” would have to be confirmed by a full Senate?  Yes, maybe it’s time for a truly balanced bench with a fourth female justice to serve…then again, that might have to wait until we have a new female President🙂

 

Authors, beware of Amazon’s Copyright Grab!

My publisher recently received a notice from Amazon suggesting the idea of giving away copies of my two books, Amalfi Blue and Shrouded in Pompei.  Amazon’s angle was to increase sales and allow me to promote my books across social media platforms.  No purchase was necessary by the entrant and it’s not really clear who was paying for the cost of the prizes.  Certainly, I was not going to receive money if nothing was being sold.

OK, the free giveaway sounds good so far, right?  Wrong.  If it sounds too good to be true, it generally is!  Lucky for me, I happen to be a really good lawyer and cherish my creative copyrights because the red siren of doom sounded as soon as I read the fine print in Amazon’s Giveaway Services Agreement.

To the uninitiated laymen…you’re screwed if you use Amazon’s Giveaway…in my humble opinion.  Look at the Definitions section.  Amazon defines “Your Material” as “all Technology, Your Trademarks, Content, information, data, photographs, images, videos and other materials and items provided or made available by you or your Affiliates to Amazon or its Affiliates.”

CopyrightThen scroll up to Paragraph 5 and check what type of license you are granting to Amazon:

“You grant us a royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use, reproduce, perform, display, distribute, adapt, modify, excerpt, analyze, re-format, create derivative works of, and otherwise commercially or non-commercially exploit in any manner, any and all of Your Materials, and to sublicense the foregoing rights; provided that nothing in this Agreement will prevent or impair our right to use Your Materials without your consent to the extent that such use is allowable without a license from you or your Affiliates under applicable Law (e.g., fair use under United States copyright law, referential use under trademark law, or valid license from a third party).”

So why does this scream – “put on the brakes?”

  1. Royalty free – that means they don’t have to pay you to use your creative material or content.
  2. Create derivative works – that means they can make a movie or merchandise your characters when the book is a bestseller…again without paying you any royalties.
  3. Sublicense the foregoing rights – that means they can sell your rights, now their rights, to any third party

It amazes me how Amazon continually tries to exploit independent authors who have become the lifeblood of their Kindle revenue stream.  Writers, always, always read the fine print of any Terms & Conditions before signing up for anything that sounds just too good to be true.  You risk giving away your intellectual property rights for a free book giveaway!