Happy Wednesday, Blawg Pound. It’s a day of aging around the WFNY offices, as two among us — Andrew Schnitkey and yours truly — were born on this day [mumbles] years ago. And what a coincidence that just yesterday, a ruling came down finding the copyright claim to “Happy Birthday to You,” long held by Warner/Chappelle Music, to be invalid.
Ever noticed that birthday scenes in movies never include the same song that folks sing in real life? Or wondered why Chotchkies-style restaurants always have their own cornball version of a birthday tune? That copyright was the reason why — but no more! (I think that’s why, anyway; I defer to the aspiring attorneys of the Internet to clarify or challenge this claim.)
The ruling means that Warner/Chappell will lose out on $2 million a year in reported revenue on the song. Unless something happens at an appellate court or unless someone else comes forward with a valid claim of ownership to the song, filmmakers like director Jennifer Nelson — who sued in 2013 over demands as much as six figures to license — will no longer have to pay to feature “Happy Birthday” in motion pictures and television shows.
It’s a big day, and I for one am honored to have my day of birth be the first in decades on which people can sing freely without fear of litigation. Big day, indeed.
Brief interruption: Josh McCown will be starting for the Browns Sunday. Discuss.
When birthdays are the subject, Jim Gaffigan is required viewing. His bit from 2006’s Beyond the Pale special — the same one that propelled his fascination with Hot Pockets into the mainstream — captures the supreme sense of entitlement that a birthday brings. It’s just another day, yet there is tremendous pressure to enjoy oneself. Worse, sometimes you have to, you know, do stuff even though you burst out of a lady on the same day some years ago.
“I can’t believe I’m going to work on my birthday,” Gaffigan says “…I can’t believe I’m doing laundry on my birthday…I can’t believe I’m paying for sex on my birthday.”
Here’s to avoiding at least one of those. I hate laundry.
Enough birthday talk. I finally got around to reading a piece last night that I had put off for nearly two weeks. I had a browser window open on my computer that whole time, but for whatever reason I kept kicking the can down the road. I finally picked up that can, and I think it’s one worth sharing. Bryan Curtis wrote a profile for Grantland on Cris Collinsworth, NFL analyst supreme and 15-time Sports Emmy winner. Curtis tells the tale of Collinsworth’s move from Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver to premier color commentator, highlighting the work habits and perspective that set the 56-year-old apart.
This line from Collinsworth, for instance, nearly knocked me out of my seat.
“If you said, ‘What is the most important aspect of winning football games?’” Collinsworth said, “I don’t think I could give you an answer to that question.”
A television analyst saying that there’s no easy answer as to how to win at football?! He doesn’t know?! Sacrilege! This, in a very small nutshell, is what sets Collinsworth apart. He’s an ex-player, but he has sought to elevate the level of football discourse above the truisms and cliches perpetuated by the so-called jockocracy. Curtis explains that Collinsworth has come to understand that there is a need for button-pushing (“I’m thoroughly convinced that people want info-tainment,” Collinsworth says), but he tries to bring more to the conversation than it all starts with the quarterback! or something similarly bland.
Another bit that resonated with me, and something that I’ll have to look for next time I watch Sunday Night Football, is that Collinsworth actually stops — actually stops — to think before talking sometimes. Imagine that.
Also striking are the small but unmistakable pauses you hear on Sunday Night Football when Al Michaels finishes his play-by-play. These are instances of Collinsworth taking an extra second to stare at the field and consider what he has just seen. “Sometimes, I just can’t figure out what they’re doing,” he said. “I find myself sitting there like [chess champ] Boris Spassky or something, studying it.”
It’s a fine piece of writing by Curtis, and Collinsworth’s story is an inspiring one to me. It isn’t all that different from any success story on its face. He found something he loves to do, and for which he had a knack. He worked his ass off. He got opportunities. He struggled a bit, but he mostly did well. He achieved. And all the while, he kept working, working, working.
That’s all you can do, isn’t it? Hard work doesn’t guarantee success by any means. Luck and circumstance are always involved — imagine if Stephen Curry got hurt in Game 1 of the Finals instead of Kyrie Irving. You need to catch a break. But when that break comes, the only thing that can prepare you for it is, well, preparation. And you never know when that break is going to come.
I think that’s why quote-unquote real life can feel so uncertain. In school, you know when the test is. In sports, you know what time the game starts. Life is little more than a high hurdle race, and for the first several years, you know where the hurdles are and can act accordingly. But it’s hard to time your jump when the hurdles start moving and popping up with no rhyme or reason. You might find yourself sprinting into three and be tempted to clear them in one swoop.
Have you seen the story of the pharmaceutical company that raised the price of a drug 5000 percent? Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights to Daraprim, which is prescribed to AIDS patients, among others, and bumped the price from $13.50 a pill to $750. The New York Times got wind of it, and public pressure led the company to knocking the price down to a more reasonable level. What the new price will be, I have not yet seen, but I’d bet my life it’s not going back to $13.50 a pop.
Patrice O’Neal saw this coming — and he died almost four years ago. He did a bit on his album Mr. P about gas prices jumping from 99 cents to four dollars, then consumers feeling tremendous relief when prices fell down to, say, $2.50 — still a significant increase, but it feels more palatable after the big jump. Patrice noted that the same thing happened with footwear.
“They did that shit with sneakers. Sneakers was forty, then it go — this is how they play you — it go from forty…TO EIGHTY! You go ohhhh god, eighty dollars?! Then it goes to sixty-five and you go phewww.
IT’S STILL TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS MORE.”
It goes on to get a good bit more vulgar (and insightful). I’m afraid I can’t find a clip to share, but it’s part of the album’s third track, should you be that curious.
That’s all for me today, gang. I thank you for indulging me and, as always, for reading. It’s the finest gift one can receive.