15 September 2010

Readings, 2010.09.14

Tuesday's Readings

Open Access

Matthew Nisbet at Big Think points to Transforming Scholarly Publishing through Open Access: A Bibliography, containing over 1,100 items. The bibliography is available as a free pdf, or as a paperback.  It looks extraordinarily useful.

Creative Rights

Boing Boing reports that filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard has contributed €1000 to the defense of James Climent, a French citizen accused of illegally downloading 13,788 mp3s.  A commenter on the Boing Boing post has contributed an English translation of Godard's statement:
« Je suis contre Hadopi, bien sûr. Il n’y a pas de propriété intellectuelle. Je suis contre l’héritage, par exemple. Que les enfants d’un artiste puissent bénéficier des droits de l’œuvre de leurs parents, pourquoi pas jusqu’à leur majorité... Mais après, je ne trouve pas ça évident que les enfants de Ravel touchent des droits sur le Boléro... »

I am against Hadopi [the French internet-copyright law, or its attendant agency], of course. There is no such thing as intellectual property. I'm against the inheritance [of works], for example. An artist's children could benefit from the copyright of their parents' works, say,
until they reach the age of majority... But afterward, it's not clear to me why Ravel's children should get any income from Bolero...
In my first ever comment to Boing Boing, I point out that Ravel didn't have any children...indeed, he is not known (according to Wikipedia) to have had any sexual liaisons whatsoever.  I agree completely with the point Godard is trying to make; he just needed a better example.  The Gershwins, perhaps?


According to an article by Pascal Riché at Rue89, Noam Chomsky has signed a petition to free Holocaust denier Vincent Reynouard, on the grounds that even a Holocaust denier has a right to free speech ("Chomsky se risque encore dans le bourbier des négationnistes").

In looking for an English-language article on this, I ran across a brief interview with Chomsky at the New Statesman. The petition to free Reynourad is not discussed in the interview, but one of the commenters reproduces an English-language press release on the topic.  The petition (French and English) is here; it calls for the repeal of the "Gayssot Law" under which Reynouard was jailed, and for Reynouard's release.

In the interview, Chomsky refers to Obama as a war criminal.

Human Rights

At The Independent, Roger Fisk has published a series of investigative articles on the sickening practice of "honor killing."  (I mean "sickening" literally.) The first of the series (the only one I've read so far) is here, with links to the rest.   Reading these is not to be undertaken lightly; they are profoundly disturbing.


In the first decade of the 20th century, Jewish industrialist Viktor Zuckerkandl commissioned Josef Hoffmann, Kolo Moser, and the Wiener Werkstätte to design and build the Sanatorium Purkersdorf.  The sanatorium was appropriated by the Nazis in 1938, and after the war, it came into the possession of the new Austrian government. Der Standard reports that Zuckerkandl's heirs are now fighting for fair restitution (the family accepted a meager payoff in 1952 when it was under financial stress).  Sounds like they're getting a run-around from the Austrian bureaucracy.

Corrupt Health Care

Duff Wilson at The New York Times reports on new study showing that highly paid consultants to medical device companies chronically fail to report this conflict of interest in their published research.  The article is:
Susan Chimonas, Zachary Frosch, & David J. Rothman, "From Disclosure to Transparency: The Use of Company Payment Data," Archives of Internal Medicine. The article is freely available for download.
And if that doesn't spoil your breakfast, try Carl Elliott in The Chronicle of Higher Education on "The Secret Lives of Big Pharma's 'Thought Leaders'," physicians who are highly paid and lavishly pampered by drug companies to act as "thought leaders" or "key opinion leaders" (KOLs) for their peers:  in other words, to act as marketing shills.

And you thought current clinical practice was science-based.  Silly you.  It's all about the money.

Evolution of Religion

John Cookson at Big Think writes on "The Neurological Origins of Religious Belief."  Rather less here than meets the eye: much of the post deals with Lionel Tiger, an "evolutionary biologist" from Rutgers, who is quoted as saying "[Religion] is a secretion of the brain."  And that secretion is, according to Tiger, seretonin.  (So I guess SSRIs should make us more religious?).  Can you say "egregious oversimplification"?

Much better is a segment with Alix Spiegel on All Things Considered: "Is Believing in God Evolutionarily Advantageous?"  This first aired on 30 August, as part of the series "The Human Edge," but I just caught up with it on Tuesday.  The focus is on the work of Jesse Bering and Dominic Johnson. Well worth a read (or listen).

Human Evolution

David Dobbs has just taken his blog Neuron Culture to Wired (where the first rate science-blog lineup now also includes Jonah Lehrer and Brian Switek, among others).  He kicks off with a superb post on the "social sensitivity" gene (which I blogged about last week):  "The depression map: genes, culture, seretonin, and a side of pathogens."  Read it.  You can educate yourself about the topic by following the links in this post, which is how this kind of science journalism should be done.  And the two principal research articles that he discusses are freely downloadable.

See also the comments by Razib Khan at Gene Expression.


At Der Standard, Dominik Kamalzadeh reviews a new film by Percy and Felix Adlon, Mahler auf der Couch, on Mahler's relationship with Alma Schindler, and Mahler's eventual visit to Freud to discuss it.

The Liberace museum in Las Vegas will close on 17 October, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. The museum isn't bringing in enough money to cover its expenses. Jeffery Koep, chairman of the board of directors of the Liberace Foundation, is quoted as saying: "When this started 30-some years ago, Lee was still a name ... Keeping that brand alive has been very difficult."


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