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November 21, 2009

Daredevils of the Sky

Back in 1959, the Air Force pilots stationed out at Nellis AFB would test their skills -- and have a bit of fun -- racing their jets at breakneck speeds through the Grand Canyon, sometimes low enough to kick up spray from the Colorado River.

RAF pilot Ron Dick was an instructor pilot, part of an exchange program between the U.S. and the Brits, training students in the Lockheed T-33. Dick, who later served as an Air Vice Marshal in the RAF, was at the controls when these films were shot from the back seat of a jet during two flights through the Grand Canyon, back in '59 and '60.

Environmentalists may be horrified at the thought of hotshot pilots tearing through the canyons, but I'm positively teary-eyed with nostalgia for a time when the military -- and the rest of our nation -- wasn't ensnared in a paralyzing web of regulations and prohibitions.

Thanks to Mike Talbot of Universal Space Lines (and a fellow JAG Corps officer in the California State Military Reserve) for pointing me to this footage.

Posted by Mike Lief at 10:18 AM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2009

Capt. Scully's wild Hudson River ride

Americans watched in amazement last January when the cool-as-ice U.S. Airways pilot, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, landed his crippled airliner in the Hudson River -- and saved all his passengers from death.

Over the intervening months, a number of videos and animations have popped up on the web, trying to provide a better view of what happened when a number of birds smashed into the jet's engines shortly after takeoff from New York's La Guardia airport. But nothing you've seen compares to the latest simulation to appear online.

Kas Osterbuhr, an engineer at K3 Resources, has taken all the data released by the NTSB and used it to create -- recreate, actually -- the entire incident with an obsessive dedication to accuracy, and in astonishing detail, too. Make sure to click the "HD" button on the video above, and then view it in full-screen mode to get the full effect.

When you're done, head over to Osterbuhr's website to view all the different videos and graphics he's made, using the information released by the feds.

Posted by Mike Lief at 09:11 AM | Comments (2)

November 13, 2009

Bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yea

An interesting copyright decision has just come out of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, reports The Tennessean.

The phrase "bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yea" belongs exclusively to funk legend George Clinton, a panel of federal judges ruled this week.

Bridgeport Music, the company that administers Clinton's work, sued Universal Music Group for copyright infringement over those words in 2001. At issue: the 1998 release of "D.O.G. in Me," a song by hip-hop and R&B group Public Announcement, one of Universal's artists. In the song, Bridgeport claimed, Public Announcement wrongfully used the words "bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yea," as well as a repetitive use of the word "dog" in ways that infringe on Clinton's copyright.

Clinton and two other songwriters first penned the phrase in 1982 while writing "Atomic Dog," one of Clinton's best-known works.

A federal jury agreed with Bridgeport and awarded the company about $89,000 in damages. The amount was based on the sales of Public Announcement's album All Work, No Play, which included the song.

The opinion, available as a PDF here, provided a glimpse of how Clinton's creative muse works.

Songwriters David Spradley, Garry Shider, and George Clinton created “Atomic Dog” in a recording studio in January 1982, working without a written score ... Testimony at trial indicated that the song was composed spontaneously – Spradley recorded the initial tracks in the studio and recalled that “when George arrived he had been partying pretty heavily so he was, you know, feeling pretty good,” and was unsteady at the microphone. Spradley and Garry Shider “got on either side of him. We just kind of kept him in front of the microphone” while Clinton recorded the vocal tracks that same night.

The Court provides an explanation of the test used to determine if the creative work at issue was sufficiently original to warrant copyright protection, concluding that Clinton's bow-wow-wowing and panting -- well, take a look for yourself:

As noted previously, the standard for originality is a low one, and the “vast majority of works make the grade quite easily.” Feist, 499 U.S. at 345. In this case, expert testimony presented at trial was sufficient to permit the jury to conclude that Clinton’s use of the three disputed elements in “Atomic Dog” met this minimal standard.

Additionally, there was expert testimony that these elements were not just the “mere abstract idea” of a dog or of the activity of panting because, in Clinton’s composition, the word “dog” constituted a “stand-alone melody of one word” used as musical punctuation at intervals on the tonic note of the song and because the sound of panting followed the rhythm of the song. Testimony by David Spradley, a co-creator of “Atomic Dog,” also demonstrated that Clinton exercised some degree of creative control over the panting by instructing the performers to create a certain rhythm.

I can't help but notice that the judges did not seem to be country music fans, writing about the genre in a footnote:

An example of scènes à faire, or “stock” themes, in music is found in Black v. Gosdin, 740 F. Supp. 1288, 1292 (M.D. Tenn. 1990), involving a dispute over a country music song about a jilted lover set in a bar with a jukebox. The court explained that these elements in the song flow directly from a common theme in country music: “Having chosen the familiar theme of a broken hearted lover seeking solace in country music, the choice of a barroom with a jukebox as the setting in which to unfold this idea simply cannot be attributed to any unique creativity on the part of the songwriter.”

It seems if the jilted cowboy had had his horse whinnying the refrain in the footnoted country song, the songwriters would have had a better shot at prevailing. Still, at least justice has prevailed -- and gotten its groove on, too.

Posted by Mike Lief at 07:39 AM | Comments (2)

November 12, 2009

How to make a baby

How to Make a Baby from Cassidy Curtis on Vimeo.

So that's how it's done! I knew that whole "stork brought the baby" thing was a crock.

Posted by Mike Lief at 07:09 AM | Comments (1)