Category Archives: Popular Culture

Comment of the Day: “The Beatles And Plagiarism”

Then there are Golden Rule considerations...

Then there are Golden Rule considerations…

There were many outstanding comments today, but I have a soft spot in my heart for any comment that completes a post that I decided to shorten by raising the issue I omitted for length. Thus johnburger2013 gets another Comment of the Day nod for his musings on the elusive lines between homage, inspirations, quotes and plagiarism in music.

The three examples discussed in my post are not close calls, I’d insist: my friend, actor/lawyer/ classic rock maven David Elias informs me that John Lennon actually confessed that he had plagiarized the Chuck Berry song, and his was the least egregious steal of the three. Other instances, however, are not so clear cut: If he hadn’t sung all of them, a case could be made that every Gary Puckett song was plagiarized from every other one. (The same, in fact, has been said of Chuck Berry.)

In researching the Beatles story, I found an entertaining site called Sounds Just Like which explores johnb’s “line.” Most are a stretch: No, I don’t think John Williams ripped off Darth Vader’s theme from Mary Poppins’ “A Spoonful of Sugar.” But I do know that Arthur Sullivan was imitating Mendelssohn big time in “Iolanthe,” and that recognizable musical quotes are important tools of the trade that should not be strangled by overzealous copyright prosecutions.

Here is johnburger2013’s Comment of the Day on the post, The Beatles And Plagiarism: Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture

The Beatles And Plagiarism

Chuck BerryI knew that Brian Wilson had ripped off Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” to write “Surfin’ USA,” resulting in Berry owning the copyright to the Beach Boys hit. I knew that George Harrison had stolen the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” for his first solo hit “My Sweet Lord,” ultimately resulting in Harrison being found guilty of “subconscious plagiarism” (suuuuuure) and paying $1,599,987 of the earnings from “My Sweet Lord” to Bright Tunes, since songwriter Ronnie Mack had died in 1963, shortly after “He’s So Fine” was released. ( George did not cover himself in glory, telling an interviewer, “As far as I’m concerned, the effect the song has had far exceeds any bitching between copyright people and their greed and jealousy.” You stole the song, George.)

I did not know until this morning, when I had a chance to listen closely to Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” on my car radio, that The Beatles had plagiarized it for the opening cut on “Abbey Road,” “Come Together (Over Me.)”

First it was the lyrics that got my attention. I heard Chuck sing..

“I was rollin’ slowly ’cause of drizzlin’ showers
Here come a flat-top, he was movin’ up with me..”

Sounds familiar…where have I heard that before? Oh yeah!

“Here come old flattop, he come grooving up slowly…”

Then there was the melody, which was essentially identical, just differently arranged. Compare:

Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, History, Popular Culture

From The”On The Other Hand” Files: Before You Are Too Hard On Feminists Who Arrive At College Resenting Men, Read This…

Street harassment sign There is are good reasons why many women come to think of all men as potential predators.

Valerie Steighner authored a powerful essay titled “My 11-Year-Old Daughter Just Got Catcalled for the First Time and I Don’t Know How To Teach Her to Protect Herself From Predators.” Please read it. Here’s an excerpt:

She is 11 years old. She just graduated from elementary school and still plays with small plastic animals. And now along with vocab words, I have to teach her how to protect herself from disgusting men.

I told her that what that man did is called catcalling and catcalling is aggressive behavior and the best action is to ignore it. Usually, men that are willing to yell slurs about you and your body, if provoked, can be unpredictable and dangerous; it’s best to keep walking; don’t make eye contact and stand tall. 

I felt so defeated as the words came out of my mouth. Basically, there is nothing we can do, but pretend it’s not happening….Obviously, I was sexually active all through my twenties, but there is a difference from being what others want and finding what you need…The predator lives everywhere. He lives on our streets, in our grocery stores, on our billboards and in our malls. He constantly reminds us what our value is and where we belong. How do I teach her to catch him, see him and to protect herself from him?  How do I teach her that her body is not a source of shame but a source of power and strength? How do I teach her to hear the predator’s words to know what they mean and still stand tall and confident? How do I teach her to protect herself and still be open?

It sucks. It sucks that this has to happen to my daughter in 6th grade. It sucks that it’s only the beginning. It sucks that she has to learn about her body in the context of men noticing it. 

What also sucks is that the problem is a failure of ethics and civilization to move fast enough. Men are programmed to want sex and to procreate, and once upon a time in America the kind of conduct a disgusting 50-year old focused on the writer’s barely pubescent daughter was a cultural norm. In some places, it still is. Women had no other function but to find a man, have his children and make the home run smoothly, and not finding a man was, in some settings, a catastrophe. In the American West, a woman in her thirties who was uneducated and unmarried was very likely to end up a prostitute: it was the single largest occupation for unmarried women. When so many women are whores, men get in the habit of treating women as whores, and women who don’t want that fate will provide positive reinforcement to flirtations that are really harassment and disrespect. [You can find the many Ethics Alarms posts related to this topic here]

Old habits supported by hormones, traditions and bad role models—like, say, Jack Kennedy, Joe Biden and Donald Trump–will die hard or not die at all. In many ways, the culture still supports the ugly behavior Steighner’s daughter experienced. Many ways.  For example, in a current Geico commercial, the Gecko shows his trophy accompanied by that briefly popular song “Whoomp! There it is!,”  which is essentially street harassment in song form. You will also hear it in sporst stadiums. Continue reading


Filed under Childhood and children, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Love, Popular Culture, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

The Ethics Alarms New NFL Season Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ex-Football Fan Steve Almond


“We know, on some level, that a good many of the players we cheer for each Sunday will be revealed as all too human when they wind up battling dementia. But… fans have a whole suitcase full of rationalizations intended to preserve our right to consume, and thus sponsor, this hyper-violent game. “The players know the risks!” we insist. “They get paid millions!” But ultimately, our most effective dodge resides in our willingness to view the game as one big movie.”

Steve Almond, author of “Against Football, in an essay today for the Washington Post titled “Hollywood’s version of the gridiron is just fantasy football
(It hypes violence for the sake of drama — then reassures us everything is okay)”

Perfect timing for this article, a reminder of what fans are really watching and cheering for during the pro football season, which began today.

No, I won’t be watching.

Her’s another chilling quote from Almond’s article: Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Quotes, Health and Medicine, Popular Culture, U.S. Society, Workplace

If They Threw Elliot In Jail For Kissing Erika Eleniak, What Would Have Happened To E.T.?

In a memorable scene in “E.T.,” young hero Elliot (Henry Thomas), intoxicated by his psychic link to his marooned space alien pal, loses impulse control during Middle School science class and, while E.T. watches John Wayne’s passionate kiss with Maureen O’Hara in “The Quite Man,” embraces the class heart-throb—played by barely pubescent “Baywatch” babe-to-be Erika Eleniak!


— and gives her a passionate smooch.

If Spielberg’s classic premiered today, this scene might be condemned as sexual assault by feminists, who would insist that Elliot should have been charged. Is that really fair? Rational? Sane?

At  Pikesville (Maryland) Middle School, a 13-year-old boy has been charged with second-degree assault for kissing a 14-year-old girl on a dare. Police were called to the scene by the school, undoubtedly influenced by the current sexual assault freak-out on college campuses. (The proper response of an ethical and well-led police force, by the way, would be “Don’t waste our time.”) Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

#BlackZombiesMatter: When The Most Ethical Response To Race Activists Is Mockery

Wait, what color is that hand? I'm keeping track here...

Wait, what color is that hand? I’m keeping track here…

I have no idea what it would like to be black. I accept the truth of  Clarence Darrow’s empathetic words in his defense of Ossian Sweet: I assume being black must be overwhelming at times, all consuming, distorting how everything is seen and experienced. Nevertheless, it does not justify everything, It does not excuse anything. There are some reactions to the black experience that can be fairly labelled destructive, or foolish, or paranoid, or racist. Or ludicrous. When we see these reactions, we ought not to indulge them, nor hesitate for a second to call them exactly what they are. The fact that black Americans are reacting to being black does not mean that the reaction is always worthy of respect, and if there is a mass delusion born of emotion or demagoguery or fanaticism or despair, the best response may well be a bucket of cold water, or to point and laugh. Hard.

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and it’s prequel “Fear the Walking Dead” are among the most diverse TV shows on network or cable, filled with villains, victims, heroes and martyrs of all races and combination of races, most of whom are doomed. Yet these shows have become yet another target of the Black Lives Matter movement, an even wackier one than Bernie Sanders. Apparently the shows discriminate against black characters. Well, it does if you are so besotted with racial grievances and suspicion of American culture that you can’t think straight.  Just as the group sees hands upraised when there were none, it sees, along with lunatic race-baiter/author Tananarive Due,  racial bias against black men in two shows that are thoroughly post-racial—you know, when the dead are eating the living, color really, really doesn’t matter. Black men was an essential qualification of this latest grievance, because arguably the most admirable and interesting character oin either show so far is a black woman, Michonne, played by Danai Gurira. Never mind, it’s black men that the show, like America, hates.

I know these shows rather well, in part because they  contain great ethics hypothetical. I’ve been trying to think of any white character that these race obsessed guilt-mongers wouldn’t find offensively-treated if they were black. The putative star of “The Walking Dead,” Rick, is a weak leader, not too bright, and unstable. Make him black, and he’s an insult to black men; right now, he’s just an insult to police, Southerners, fathers, leaders, and American characters played by British actors. If Due and the rest can be insulted by the  fates of the wide variety of black characters that have appeared on both shows so far, they can find a way to be insulted by any characters, plot developments, costuming make-up, or manner of death. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Popular Culture, Race, U.S. Society

Colbert And Matthews: You know, Guys,The American Public Deserves Better Than This.

Stephen Colbert

What we  deserve is fairness, truth, respect, and not to have the people with the biggest megaphones working overtime to mislead, corrupt and indoctrinate us.

First, Stephen Colbert.

The media drooling over Colbert taking over for David Letterman has been embarrassing and itself a symptom of anti-conservative bias. Colbert is versatile, smart and funny, but we have many such performers. He is only lovedlovedloved—as opposed to appreciated and admired– because he mocked Republicans and conservatives. and no one else, on his Comedy Central show. (So did Letterman on CBS in his dotage, but Colbert is sunnier and smarter than Dave.) Colbert can be another knee-jerk liberal mouthpiece if he chooses, but its a boring choice and ultimately diminishing: there is ample ammunition for satire and mockery in the conduct of all politicians. Representing otherwise on a big stage every night in an election year will ultimately become an exercise in cultural indoctrination and lazy punditry, like Bill Maher playing to the approving screams of his atheist, drug-loving, progressive audience. Maybe Colbert will get good ratings this way, but it’s not what he suggested would be his course in the run up to yesterday’s premiere on CBS.

I won a bet that I hoped he would lose: I bet that Colbert would mock Trump, and leave Hillary alone. And so he did. Maybe he will make up for this in later shows, but I doubt it very much after his demeanor last night. Trump is an easy mark: Conan has been mocking him for years. But it is Hillary who has provided the best material for a genuine, Equal Opportunity satirist, especially her Manchurian Candidate, robotic “apology” statement from earlier in the day. Talk about creepy…and, if the possibility didn’t exist that this pod person might end up in the White House, comedy gold:

Especially since she didn’t genuinely apologize for anything. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, U.S. Society