December 17, 2018

Archives for February 2004

Support the Grey Album

Today many websites have turned themselves grey, to protest EMI Records’ decision to try to block the Grey Album, DJ Danger Mouse’s clever and widely acclaimed musical work, in which he mixed a capella vocals from Jay-Z’s Black Album with backing sounds sampled from the Beatles’ White Album. EMI, which claims copyright in the Beatles album, has sent cease and desist letters to sites that post the Grey Album.

I don’t know whether the Grey Album’s use of Beatles samples meets the legal definition of fair use; so I don’t know whether EMI is within its rights to do what it is doing. What I do know is that EMI was not compelled to suppress the Grey Album, but instead it chose to try to suppress a popular work that is doing nothing to harm the sales of the Beatles’ music. Worse yet, EMI tries to put a “creators’ rights” spin on its actions, even as it works to suppress a new creative work. Let’s hope that public opinion shames EMI into reversing course and freeing the Grey Album.

Great Books

Arnold Kling points to a recent survey that asked university presidents to name five books every student should read.

The top ten books on the list are: The Bible, The Odyssey, Plato’s Republic, Democracy in America, The Iliad, Hamlet, The Koran, The Wealth of Nations, The Prince, and The Federalist Papers.

Arnold rightly laments the absence of modern books on the list. More interesting to me is the lack of consensus. The top-scoring book, the Bible, was recommended by only 20 of the 128 presidents; and the Federalist Papers made the top ten despite being mentioned by only three percent of the respondents (four out of 128).

On the topic of science and technology, depressingly few books were mentioned at all. The top sci/tech scorer was Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, with three mentions. Also mentioned were Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Ridley’s Genome, and, oddly, Brockman’s Greatest Inventions.

Readers: tell me in the comments which five science and technology books you would have every student read. I’ll summarize and give my own list once your lists are in.

Want to Know Who's Googling You?

Phil Libin at Vastly Important Notes points out a way to discover how often you’re being Googled. The trick is to buy a Google AdWords advertisement keyed to your own name. Whenever somebody searches for your name, your ad will be displayed. Later, Google will give you statistics about your ad’s placement, which you can use to infer how often people searched for you.

This does cost money, but it’s cheap enough that I can imagine many people doing it.

What Phil doesn’t say is that you can use the same method to learn search statistics about other people’s names, or other search phrases. This is impractical for popular search phrases, since they already have many advertisers, whom you would have to outbid for space on the page. But for a great many search phrases, it would be quite affordable.

I wonder what Google would think of this.