Saturday, July 25, 2015

#Cherished: If This Teddy Could Talk...

On a bookshelf behind my desk, out of sight unless you know where to look, sits a toy koala bear. He's old, dusty, and faded. The hair on his ears is matted. His eyes are scratched, and the tan felt of one eyelid has peeled off. The plastic pear he wears as a nose needs to be glued back on. Again. And yet his grin remains. A tad sardonic maybe--not surprising, given the degree of abandonment he's put up with. But there's real bonhomie, too. Good-natured patience. I'm here, that grin seems to say. Whenever you remember.

Is there anything as sad as a forgotten once-beloved toy? These cast-offs speak of lost childhoods, changing priorities, the ephemeral nature of our attachments, even the ones that feel, at the time, forged in steel. Most of all, I suppose, these little personalities -- for who can deny them that bit of humanity? -- remind us of the selves we've left behind.

His name is Beary. He slept in the crook of my arm for years and years, stood watch over the kingdom of my bedroom while I, its omnipotent god and ruler, met the obligations of school and ballet and basketball. He was never a toy in the strictest sense of the word; he rarely played a part in my mini-operas of fairies and princesses and pirates and damsels in distress saved by magic (and their own wits... I was already a feminist under all those pink tulle frills). No, Beary--from his arrival, when I was maybe 6 or 7--was always a companion rather than a playmate. A kindred soul (my first). A guardian angel, maybe, without the religious and/or protective connotation.

He shared sleeping space with a few other darlings, but while those came and went, Beary stayed. Beary was the one that came along (carry-on; never checked baggage) on a three-month trip to Europe. Beary was the sole carry-over during that harsh marshland of childhood-to-adulthood; I cried my first bitter tears of heartbreak into his pudgy belly, and when all but the most significant toys had either been given away or put into storage, he always had pride of place, either by my bedside or on my desk.

Over the years, I've lost many things that hurt: love letters, books, posters, postcards, photo albums with my whole childhood and adolescence in them. And Beary. Moving on requires jettisoning things we're not ready to leave behind. I've learned to let go, because--well, because holding on does no one any good.

Last year, when I was in Mexico to renew my passport, my mother came to my bedroom as I was packing for my pre-dawn flight and said, "I have a surprise for you." She produced Beary, recently laundered, grinning that Hey You grin of his. "I didn't have time to fix his nose," she said, shoving him into my arms too fast, as if afraid maybe I'd use the falling bit of plastic as a reason to reject him.

I left behind a kilo package of tortilla corn flour in order to make him fit. Carry-on, of course, and screw the weird looks I got from Customs. Beary doesn't travel in cargo.

The #Cherished blogfest celebrates objects that pull on the heartstrings of memory. If you enjoyed this post, visit the other participating blogs--and join up with your own story of a cherished object of your own. The linky list is open until the end of the day tomorrow (Sunday). And a big round of applause for #Cherished hosts Damyanti, Dan Antion, Paul Ruddock, Peter Nena, and Sharukh Bamboat!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

#BoTB results -- Gabriel's Oboe

This came perilously close to being a shut-out.

Here's the tally, without my vote:

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The MIRACLE Saga of Unforeseen Obstacles (& Pleasures): The Copyright Melee

I'm lucky that my publisher has a sense of humor.

Somewhere in the revisions round for the first proof copy (which, like anything else ordered from abroad--abroad meaning anywhere, Curaçao being an island--took forever to get here), the publisher asks,

Oh, hey, your MC quotes a line of poetry in the second chapter. Shouldn't that be credited in the copyright page?

Yes. YES. How did that slip through the cracks? It's a fragment from T.S. Eliot. T.S. Eliot. Of course it needs to be credited. Easily fixed; a quick look inside my favorite Eliot volume, an email to the publisher, and phewalldone.

And then,

What about the lines of this one song the guy sings at the end? Who should we credit those to?

What am I, an idiot? How can I possibly forget about freaking attributions? First for T.S. Eliot, and now for one of Mexico's most popular mariachi singers... Seriously. Yes, please include a credit to Mr. Pepe Aguilar.

Just like that? Pepe Aguilar?

No, I guess--wait, let me check how exactly the dude's name is listed in the song's copyright info. And, also, whether the song is, in fact, his. It's a popular song. Many artists have recorded it.


First, there is no copyright info. Title of the song: check. Title of the album: check. Performing artist: check. Songwriter: nothing. Eventually, I found a half-assed showbiz gossip article about Mr. Aguilar being upset about some bachata singer in the Dominican Republic recording this song of his--which is not really his (or he wouldn't have been crying No Fair to a magazine, he'd have been in court); turns out this other dude by the name of Fato wrote it for Mr. Aguilar.


Eventually I got his real name: Enrique Guzmán Yañez. (Never heard of him.) But I still couldn't find actual copyright details for the song. Fine, Mr. Fato wrote it--but who owns the copyright? Fato? Mr. Aguilar (unlikely, given the Dominican issue)? The record label? Sources were not just unclear but contradictory.

And that wasn't the only problem. How much of the song was it okay to quote without infringing copyright? I had no idea, and neither did my Australian publisher. Anything regarding Mexican law is, unhelpfully, only in Spanish.

I found the latest version of the Mexican Intellectual Property law online, downloaded it, and read it. The whole thing. (My six years in the tax and wealth-planning world finally put to literary use.) And I was able to establish for the publisher (and for me!) that the portion of the song quoted in the book would not infringe copyright, or require authorization, or incur remuneration for the copyright holder, based on sections so-and-so of articles so-and-so.* (And I filed away a copy of this law, with relevant sections highlighted, just in case.)

My point here is that inexperience is a serious handicap. Even with my years behind a desk of law and (semi) order, if I'd been self-publishing this book I'd have ended up with, best-case, a problem. I simply didn't think. I've no doubt that self-publishing is the best way to go for many, many people, but I'm so, so glad I had a publisher to cross my t's and dot my i's.

*In case you ever want to quote stuff registered in Mexico: Mexican law pretty much follows the Fair Use statute of common law. Meaning that as long as the portion you're using does not constitute a substantial or simulative reproduction, and as long as you're not seeking direct financial gain from using it, you're good to go. So, for instance, if I'd quoted the whole song, or at least half of it, and/or if I'd used it to promote sales, we would've needed authorization and/or been liable for remuneration to the copyright owner.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Battle of The Bands -- Gabriel's Oboe

This is probably the most uplifting piece of music I've ever heard. I get chills every time. Every single time. And the movie is brilliant, too. This is not the only scene where the music is used, but it's the first (I think), and it's certainly the one that gives it meaning (for me).

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

#BoTB: July 1st results (Jersey Girl, Tom vs. Bruce)

Oh, wow. I never expected this to be so close. Cherdo's just-under-the-wire broke the 7-7 tie, putting The Boss above Mr. Waits. The tally looks like this:

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