Al Jazeera

One of the recent developments in journalism has been the rise of the Qatar based Al Jazeera network. When I heard  a few year ago that they were begining an English language version to compete with the likes of CNN I was most pleased. One of the things I really like is watching some of the English language versions of international news casts (the German DW TV being the prime example) simply for the fact that they present a non anglo-american view both of international issues, and local stories you would not otherwise see, and this kind of diversity I think is a vital component of the kind of tolerantly multicultural planet we need to become in the long run.

The reason Al Jazeera fills such an important niche is that western news organisations almost totally fail to tell the tales of all the Muslims in the middle east and elsewhere who live normal, moral, religiously faithful but tolerant, and otherwise worthwhile lives. They’re good at covering oppressed Iranians and palestinians, and fanatical afghans and so forth, but neglect the fact that these all represent the minority, like neo-Nazis in europe and Gangster rappers in the US (if you believed the popular media you’d believe they were everywhere).

The most recent cool thing regarding Al Jazeera I’ve seen was during the early days of the Mumbai terror attacks, and the Australian news channels kept crossing to get live updates from the Al Jazeera correspondent who must have been one of the first foreign journalists on site, and happened to be a blond english sounding woman, who did nothing but add credibility to the notion of her network rapidly becoming a respectible player in the world of international news.

..and one little rant

It didn’t really fit into the science post, but another thing I found, which I can’t get past feeling is a really elegant solution to the creeping damp of expanding copyright and intellectual property privileges, is to ask the question “If IP Is Property, Where Is the Property Tax?“.

It would encourage works that are no longer financially lucrative to be un-licensed and un-copyrighted and thus pass into the public domain for the general benefit.

Want Japanese Music?

Slate has an interesting piece on buying music from iTunes stores other than the one for your specific country.

It uses the example of Japanese songs that you can’t buy through iTunes America, but can buy through itunes Japan (if you live in Japan), mainly it seems because the author has a slightly unhealthy fascination with obscure Japanese pop and rock bands, but that’s neither here nor there.

It ponders why the music companies cannot come up with some arrangement so that you can buy music from overseas iTunes stores (after all, a sale is revenue for them, and denying it decreases their profit and promotes file sharing to get music), and also has some interesting comments on the various ways people routinely work around these restrictions, which is something I hadn’t read about before (apparently you can easily buy legit prepaid iTunes cards for other countries on popular auction websites, and then just buy songs using those).

Interesting read anyway.

(V)ice cool baby

About a week back, on a bit of a whim (and because it was really quite cheap), I bought the first season of Miami Vice.

It’s Classic. It just exudes cool, even with almost 20 years under it’s belt.

  • The main character lives on a boat
  • Said boat is guarded by a pet alligator (called Elvis) with a personality
  • They seem to travel everywhere by convertible or pencil boat (long thin speed boat classically used to run drugs)
  • The chicks are hot (if you ignore the higher than modern day density of Lycra)
  • The dialog is witty
  • The characters have issues, and histories, and inner demons, and other plot devices that give them actual depth
  • And….
  • Everywhere they go they have a kick ass smokin soundtrack

I love it. I saw the movie recently, and the TV series just walks all over it. Two big thumbs up so far.

For once I agree with Phil

It seems that you should never say never.

While I pretty much disagree with almost everything Philip Ruddock (Australian Attorney general) say and does (sometimes simply as a matter of principle), I actually agree with him on this one.

Essentially it ammounts to finally codifying fair use within Australian law, because currently it is technically illegal to copy CDs you own onto an iPod in order to listen to the songs, and other things of that nature.
If nothing else it nice to occasionally see the media consortiums not always getting entirely their own way.

Why doctors hate hospital

There is a quite interesting article in the current Time magazine about Doctors’ experiences of the American health system from the recieving end, either as patients, or a patient’s relative.

It’s quite interesting, as many of the issues raised are the same that I suspect you would experience in Australian or New Zealand hospitals.

It is also interesting though, the startling differences in the way the American health system operates, and most of the differences cast a very very negative light on how the Americans do things. They think that limiting junior doctors to “only” working 80 hour weeks is reasonable and healthy for their professional development, and that junior doctors working with minimal supervision doesn’t adversely affect patient safety (one senior doctor comments in the article “The only thing wrong with 1 in 2 on call is that you miss 50% of the good cases”). It’s frankly terrifying, not to mention blindingly stupid when you consider not only the patient safety issues but also the social and psychological fallout of those practices on doctors lives and health.

There is however a good little sub section entitled “What makes a good patient?” which I think everyone should read. It uses the case of a patient with multiple chronic diseases and conditions, who is medically really difficult, but who listens, ask questions, looks things up, and has reasonable expectations.

A quote I love from the TV show House goes “There you are. The mystery of medicine. Everyone wants your opinion, but nobody wants to listen to what you have to say”. It unfortunately rather nicely sums up most of our interactions with patients, and so when you see on the ward a medically difficult patient who actually listens you know you’re going to have to work really hard, but that it’s going to be a satisfying effort, and one that will ultimately be beneficial for both parties. The doctor will feel satisfied because their efforts are appreciated, and subsequently they will go the extra mile for that patient. The patient will also feel greater satisfaction with the relationship because of the more personal interactions, and will probably ultimately get better medical care.

More thoughts on copyright

The BBC has an interesting discussion piece about the appartent push by certain industry lobby groups in Britain to extend copyright from it’s current 50 years.

Regular readers will be quite familiar with my opinions on matters of copyright and IP as it pertains to popular culture, so I will forgo my usual tired tirade, but the piece is certainly an interesting and quite fairly balanced discussion of the issue.

Imagine… a world without Yoko Ono

I was watching a bit of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony this morning, and while the ceremony was by and large pretty cool (I especially liked the acrobats doing the dove dance towards the end), I have to say that I really find Yoko Ono pretty blood pathetic.

She somehow involved herself in the ceremony, reading the lyrics to John Lennon’s Imagine, as some sort of poem to peace, and while I like the song, it’s lyrics, and the unquestionable genius of it’s original creator, I find it pretty sad that whenever Yoko wants to make some public statement or be in some public appearance she trots out Lennon’s work or memory for her own use.

If she had done other things of genuine note then it might be different, but as far as I can tell she’s simply another of those myriad irritating people who have remained famous simply for being associated with someone famous.

As one london Newspaper art critic put it: “”She’s shaped nothing, she’s contributed nothing, she’s simply been a reflection of the times…I think she’s an amateur, a very rich woman who was married to someone who did have some talent and was the driving force behind the Beatles. If she had not been the widow of John Lennon, she would be totally forgotten by now…Yoko Ono was simply a hanger-on. Have you seen her sculpture or paintings? They’re all awful.”

and while there is relative agreement in art circles that her early work in visual and performance art was contributory, she has certainly doesn’t seem to have done anything particularly note worthy in several decades, and the continual riding on the coat tails of John Lennon’s ghost seems rather pathetic and distasteful.