Category Archives: Media

This Week in Law Episode 20

Last week I served as a guest panelist for This Week in Law (aka TWiL) and Episode 20 is now available for download. I think it’s a pretty good episode so if you’re at all interested in the legal challenges of dealing with technology I hope you’ll give it a listen. I had a great time with my fellow panelists Evan Brown, Colette Vogele, Ernie Svenson and host Denise Howell recording this episode.

The discussion points are available at delicious. We discussed several contemporary topics including the debate about iPodMeister which trades you an iPod for all your used CDs while still giving you a copy of all your music ripped from the CDs, the appropriate use of social networking, Obama’s Blackberry, P2P networks and the decline of the recording industry, as well as many more topics. I think it’s worth a listen but don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself at

Remembering our Media Past

One of my more recent pastimes when I have a few minutes to spare and am already caught up on the news and either need to relax and unwind a bit or just don’t have time to dive in to a more substantial project is to browse around on YouTube (similar to I do on Wikipedia) and see what turns up. One of the more interesting things that I have turned up are old “airchecks” from Twin Cities area television stations.

Being a media geek I’m fascinated by how news has changed over the years, particularly in my market. I’ve known about many of the private collectors of radio airchecks for some time but thanks to the fine people at there are now many TV airchecks from the area available online as well. Some of my favorites are actually the tv news reports on some of the area radio stations (which is how I found the archive in the first place). It’s amazing to see just how different news reporting looked even 15 years ago. While we can discuss somewhat about whether the content is any better there is no doubt that the production quality has drastically improved.

Congressional Media Access

In January of this year I wrote about congressional media access. Specifically the concerns I had related to C-SPAN’s attempt to gain independent camera access to the floor of the house and senate which could prohibit the redistribution of proceedings should copyright be enforced. At the same time the independent camera C-SPAN access to committee hearings was already preventing them from being redistributed freely. At that time I lamented that a situation such as this would occur when the Internet provides such a low cost way for the government to make itself more accessible to the people.

Since January a lot has been going on, primarily thanks to Carl Malamud and the great people at who are truly dedicated to bringing public domain government documents and media to the people via the Internet. Thanks to their efforts the Internet Archive has already started getting access to and posting committee hearings online, the archive page also has a good overview of the current state of things. The goal, and what I consider a great solution is that “By the end of the 110th Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives could achieve the goal of providing broadcast-quality video of all hearings and the floor for download on the Internet.” Obviously this would be a huge step forward and I would hope the Senate would follow suit.

I really hope that all this comes to pass as it would be a giant leap forward in making government produced content freely accessible to the people. There are other targets (such as NASA TV archives, FCC proceedings, etc.) which could be similarly targeted. Ideally state legislature proceedings would be online as well. The government produces a huge amount of material which belongs to us, the taxpayers, and there are a lot of interesting things that go on in the government. I believe it is only fair that we have access to these proceedings, and other government documents, collections and media, at the highest quality possible so that we may reuse and distribute them.

Something to watch?

Today I have four suggestions for things you might be interested in watching. First is the hilarious French comedy Le Dîner de cons (The Dinner Game). Each week Pierre and his friends invite the strangest (or stupidest) guests they can find to dinner and compete to see who can find the best guest but one of Pierre’s guests turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Second is the made for TV movie Atomic Twister. This cheesy and incredibly inaccurate action/drama movie depicts a nuclear power plant which gets hit by a tornado — twice in one day. It details the struggles faced by the power plant team to keep the plant from “going bang” and destroying western Tennessee. Meanwhile the deputy neighbor with a bad childhood tornado experience must save one of the children next door, his estranged girlfriend (and boss’s daughter) and the power plant all in one day. If you watch this during primetime you’ll be sorely disappointed but it’s one of those movies that’s a great late late night flick (and in that way similar to The Final Countdown). This was originally for USA network I think (and not yet on DVD) but was playing several times on the SciFi channel last weekend.

Third is a summer atartup TV series on the USA network called Burn Notice. This series is about a spy who has been blacklisted, cut off and back in Miami under FBI surveillance. While he trys to figure out what happened and why he’s been cut off he has to help all his friends, family and neighbors solve problems (getting set up for crimes, children kidnapped, etc.) and make a little money. Something of a cross between MacGyver’s ingenuity (with more violence) and a spy’s slickness and witty remarks it makes for a fun watch.

Finally, I have not seen the documentary Helvetica yet but it look quite interesting and has had many good reviews. This documentary marks the 50th anniversary of the Helvetica typeface by exploring the role of fonts in our lives. Interesting indeed.

Making fun of popular music

I recently saw two videos which poke fun at pop music. The first claims that many pop songs utilize only four chords. The point is illustrated by playing and transitioning through many songs over the course of the video. The second points out that many pop songs are based on the meledy in Pachelbel’s Canon in D. It also does this by playing segments of the songs where the meledy appears.

Of course there are a few problems. First, the key of many of these songs is changed in these videos to make it more obvious so it’s not really the same chords but the same chord progression. Secondly, it’s important to remember that while these songs may incorporate the same chord progression or meledy these are only parts of the song and not the entire basis of the song. There’s a long tradition in the arts of reusing others’ work so I don’t see this (especially the Pachelbel one) as a criticism of pop music so much as a fun and humorus exercise.

Public Domain Sheet Music

There was some flap last week when the International Mozart Museum purchased and made copies of the entire Neue Mozart-Ausgabe (complete works of Mozart) available online. As it turns out the license is quite restrictive and only solo studying is allowed. Note that this work (as a farily new translation) is still in copyright, older public domain versions are already available.

In any event it set me off on a quick search around the internet for public domain sheet music. I didn’t come up with much, certainly nothing on the scale of Project Gutenberg. Mutopia is about as close as you can come, but even this is quite a small project. Project Gutenberg and others do have some music available, unfortunatly a lot of it is only available in proprietary formats requiring expensive software to view or print (more on this below). If all you’re looking for is scans of pages you can try sites like these but it would be nice to have it in a truly digital and free format.

From what I can tell you really need to make things available in multiple formats, preferably LilyPond which does a subpurb job of old style engraving and outputting into PDF (for people who want to print it and play it), these people are serious about making music look the way it should and not computer generated sheet music which generally looks quite poor. Being an open format converters can easily be written to convert LilyPond files into other formats.

Who’s afraid of the big bad record companies?

If you’re an artist you should be! In a time not so long ago pretty much all local bands wanted to get “signed” by one of the big record companies. They seemed to feal these “deals” would get them notoriety and/or make them wealthy performers. All to many of those that did get “deals” ended up poor and unknown while the record executives wallpapered their offices with money.

Thanks to the internet independant artists can have a fighting chance on their own. The possibility of making it big without one of the record companies, if you have talent anyway, is not all that remote. Today one of the best things that could happen to a local band that is good, at least in my opinion, is to be turned down for a record contract and have to go it alone. I’m just waiting for the first wildly successful “viral” marketed band to sweep the nation. I feel we are now on the verge of this great accomplishment. The first few bands to make it big this way are likely to be picked up by one of the big companies which is too bad for them. Eventually someone will be smart enough not to let this happen and know that they have enough marketing capital to go it alone and in the process become much more wealthy. I wait paitently for that day and will not morn the passing of the record companies into the annals of history.

For more on the atrocities committed by the recording industry see “Courtney Love Does The Math” by Cournet Love and “The Problem With Music” by Steve Albini. These two provocative essays written by music industry insiders will give you a deeper understanding of how the present music industry works and a new appreciation for the hardships faced by artists once they make a deal with a record company.

Songs about Phsyics

Sometimes what feels so right is so very wrong. Walter F. Smith Associate Professor of Physics at Haverford College has a website called Naturally, the site features lyrics about physics set to your favorite tunes ranging from “Twinkle, Twinke, Little Star” to the “Macarena”. If you’re really a glutton for punishment you might check out the first ever physics song sing-a-long taking place at the March 15 annual meeting of the American Physical Society in Baltimore, MD. Oh, the website is very bright and reminiscent of those 1990s websites you just love to hate.

Geek Pop

For the September 2005 issue of Popular Science the magazine hired Jonathan Coulton to write a freely downloadable soundtrack. Being a pretty rare thing to see a soundtrack to a magazine I decided to check it out and it’s a good thing I did. The songs are an absolute hoot and the PopSci page led me to Jonathon’s website which has even more songs free for download all licensed under the supurb Creative Commons license which is even better! I’ve got an email in to Jonathan now to see if I can purcase FLAC versions of his music, in the meantime I suggest you check his stuff out. Described as geek pop be sure to listen to “Ikea” and “A Laptop Like You”. Of course if you too enjoy his music I encourage you to buy it and/or make a donation!