N.E.D. – The Rocking Docs

One of the wonderful benefits of blogging is the serendipitous contacts. I’ve written about cancer on this blog only twice, but because of those posts, someone wrote and asked if I would talk about a unique band. And while I’m very late, here it is.

N.E.D. is a band comprised of six board certified Gynecologic Oncologists who’ve come together to put out a really cool CD. What impresses me about these specialized doctors is that in addition to their day jobs, they have taken the effort to put out a CD where all sales goes to fund research at the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation. In addition, one of the doctors, Dr. Nimesh Nagarsheth, recently released a book called Music and Cancer: A Prescription for Healing.

The music is really wonderful – these are professional musicians and look the part.


I’ve bought the CD and I encourage you to the same. Great music and a good cause – a perfect mix.

And I absolutely love the name! N.E.D stands for No Evidence of Disease. The best words a cancer patient can hear.

Opera – in a theater near you

Watching an opera at The Met is an incredible experience. But not everyone lives in New York. This past year was the second season where people could watch the operas, live, in theaters.

The Met’s transmissions of eight live performances to movie theaters reached 908,000 people, more than the total number who attended performances at the house this season (about 850,000). The transmissions do not yet earn a profit, but they do pay for themselves, Mr. Gelb said, through ticket sales and rebroadcasts on public television.

The 2007-08 season showed in theaters in the US and in many countries around the world.

This is a wonderful way for The Met to increase participation. Opera can be viewed as stuffy, old-school and inaccessible. Showing it in movie theaters at a reasonable ticket price ($22 in the US), allows people to check it out without too much of a commitment. It also allows opera lovers around the world to access the performances.

The next step is to stream the performances online. The movie theater screenings in the US (including three theaters in NYC and one in Long Island) did not reduce the attendance at The Met at all –

Against that background and the national economic downturn, the Met has some encouraging box-office figures. The company sold 88 percent of the house this season, an 11.3 percent increase from two years ago. Out of a total of 219 performances, 127 (58 percent) sold out, up from 10 percent in 2005-6, Joseph Volpe’s final season as general manager, and 40 percent last season, Mr. Gelb’s first.

Those who are able to attend a live performance at Lincoln Center (time, location, money), will certainly continue to do that. There is no way a movie theater or a computer screen can replace that experience. The Met could charge a fee for viewing the performances online if streaming for free is too hard to swallow. That initiative could bring The Met a whole new group of followers who are much more likely to buy tickets if they are in New York during the season.

I certainly hope that Mr. Gelb is willing to be that bold.

Quotes from this NY Times article

No to perpetual copyright

I’ve talked about copyright before. I believe the extension of the life of copyright is a bad thing for artists/creators. If that sounds counterintuitive, you should read the articles below…

— Mark Helprin, a fellow at the Claremont Institute, argues that copyright should be perpetual! He equates copyright ownership with that of land ownership (or any other tangible asset). There’s a fundamental flaw in that argument and the next link (below) explains it well. I believe Helprin’s moving in the wrong direction on copyright.

— Lawrence Lessig starts a wiki page to offer a counter to Helprin. Excellent collaborative piece that explains why Helprin is wrong and why freeing creative works after a certain point helps to “free culture”. In addition to explaining the difference between tangible works and intangible property, it clarifies the point that artists are entitled to profit from their work, but usually the ability to extract value from a work, ends after a few years. When that period is over, the rights should end in order to allow others to create…

Further, the legal burden on authors and artists would increase immeasurably, literally to the point where no new works could be produced. There are a limited number of popular plot lines, a limited number of melodies, and so forth. As already noted, artists have always appropriated others works and incorporated it into their own. Homer, Shakespeare, Calder, Warhol — there is no artist that does not incorporate the culture that surrounds them, produced by previous artists and artisans. into their own art. It would be impossible for an artist to research the copyright ownership of every element they incorporate into the work they produce.

But,you say, it would be absurd to copyright, for example, plots. Boy meets girl.Consider then, music written in 4/4 time. A liberal calculation, assuming a 16 note scale, sharps, flats, and regular notes, the possibility of silence, a possible 32 beats per note, and 4 beats per bar, yields a total of only 75,264 different melodies expressed in 12 bars or less. This includes one or more repetitions within the 12 bar interval, as well as the melody of John Cage’s 4’33”. At the rate of one new melody per day, surely not an outrageous rate given the number of musicians in the world, all possible 4/4 melodies will be exhausted in a mere 207 years. Of course we will run out of appealing 4/4 melodies far sooner.

In addition, the wiki postulates that artists should be able to attach a creative commons license to their works so that they can determine that the work can not be used for commercial purposes etc.

Since I now fall into the camp of creators (albeit a very, very minor one with my two little short films), I tried to put myself in the shoes of a creator and think about this problem. After the end of the copyright period,1 I would be perfectly happy to attach a Creative Commons license to my work and let it go2. Now, for me, the Creative Commons license would be a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license3 so if someone else makes money off my work, they have to pay me. But if they don’t and if they attribute appropriately, and are also willing to share their work, go for it.

— Finally, here’s a YouTube video that Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University put together using minuscule clips from Disney cartoons. It explains copyright law, how it has changed, and provides a brief overview of Fair Use as well – all by clipping words out of the Disney cartoons! Worth a watch.

Hat tip for both the YouTube video and the debate between Helprin and Lessig: Boing Boing

  1. What about before the end of the copyright period? Hmm… probably fine with that too, if the Creative Commons license is followed. 

  2. Note: Copyright is now the life of the author/creator plus seventy years! Clearly way too long. 

  3. The same one that covers this blog 

My name is…

Vidur Kapur took to comedy after an undergraduate degree at the London School of Economics and a PhD from the pinnacle of Economics, the University of Chicago. And thank god he did. The world needs a comic of his caliber more than it needs another economist – he is fabulously hilarious!

**Warning** The following clip has adult content. Please only view this if you are an adult. ***End Warning***

Ok, with that warning out of the way, forget the first 25 seconds, but the rest is ROFLMAO material.

Maybe I find it funny because I’ve had my name mangled so many times, albeit mostly well-meaningly. I wonder what would happen if the next time I answered with – “Look, my name is Shripriya. It is a classical, ancient, Indian name…” Even if I never use his line, the thought of doing so will certainly cross my mind!

I discovered Vidur here

An auction to remember

More in my “loving New York” series.

On Wednesday evening, I went to the Christies Impressionist and Modern Sale. I visited in the morning to see the works. A sale like this, with works of such astounding quality is very rare. It was like visiting a museum that was doing a “best of” showcase.

The highlights of the sale were four works by Klimt. I have to say I loved them all.

Adele Bloch-Bauer II Houses at Unterach on the Attersee

They are phenomenal works of art. The Adele is masterful, but Birch Forest and Apple Tree just spoke to me.

Birch Forest Apple Tree I

They just make me want to smile. The paintings were behind glass, but I happened to be there at a moment when they opened them up for the press and it was astounding to see them directly. Gorgeous.

L'homme à la hacheThe other work that set record prices was a Gauguin. I have a special affinity for Paul Gauguin. When I was 14, I was dragged through the Smithsonian for 4 hours to see the most comprehensive retrospective of Gauguin’s work. Every major piece was there. While I felt it was somewhat torturous back then, I am really glad my mother forced us through the experience.

The other paintings that really drew me was a Toulouse-Lautrec that was an early work – a charming image of people lounging in the golden country side with a black dog by their side (very unlike some of his later works) and a wonderful wonderful Leger (unfortunately I can’t find an image for the awe inspirting work). Actually, there were so many amazing paintings… I was very lucky to see them.Partie de campagne

The evening sale was a zoo. There were hordes of people and two overflow rooms. The sale set a record of $491 million (including buyer’s premium) and the star of the show, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, sold for a whopping $87.9 million. Amazing. What a great experience.

Read more about the sale here. See all the prices here.

Opera season begins!

I LOVE living in New York. In terms of culture, it is truly mind-blowing. One of my favorite things is going to the opera.

The Metropolitan Opera is such a special experience. It is an elegantly regal building, both on the outside and inside, everyone is all dressed up, you drink some champagne at the break, and watch some of the finest performers around.

Lincoln Center Met interior

The first opera of this season for us was Rigoletto. We saw Rigoletto a couple of year ago and the sets were the same, but the performance last week was fabulous.

Rigoletto is best known for the song “La donna è mobile”, which most of the audience hummed along to. Also, the opening number, “Questa o quella” may be familiar to many – what a wonderful opening song to get everyone into a good mood.

Rigoletto is a long opera at 3 hours and it is broken into three acts. The first act sets the scene – we are introduced to the Duke of Mantua who is a womanizer extraordinaire and his jester Rigoletto, a hunchback who antagonizes the courtiers by being mean and offensive to them. Monterone, an elderly nobleman enters the building and accuses the Duke of seducing his daughter. When Rigoletto mocks him, he pronounces a father’s curse on Rigoletto.

Rigoletto goes home and worries about the curse. We see that he has a beautiful daughter, Gilda. He hides her from the world, worried for her safety. Unfortunately the Duke has already found her, but she thinks he is a poor student, Gualtier Maldè. In the meanwhile, the courtiers discover the daughter also, but think she is Rigoletto’s mistress.

Everyone clear? So Rigoletto leaves his house. The Duke shows up and flirts with Gilda. He then leaves. Rigoletto comes back, but it is too dark to see and he’s not sure where he is. He bumps into the courtiers who convince him they are trying to steal someone else’s mistress. They blindfold Rigoletto and have him hold the ladder and they abduct Gilda.


In Act 2, we discover that the courtiers have delivered Gilda to the Duke. He, of course, makes full use of the opportunity. By the time Rigoletto gets there, it is too late. Gilda soon rushes into his arms, weeping. Rigoletto swears vengeance, but Gilda begs him to forgive the Duke since she still loves him.

In Act 3, Rigoletto hires an assassin, Sparafucile, to kill the Duke. He also shows Gilda evidence that the Duke is flirting with the assassin’s sister, Maddalena. Gilda is sent to Verona, dressed as a boy (for protection). Maddalena begs Sparafucile to spare lover-boy, but they need a body to deliver to Rigoletto. Gilda returns and overhears their decision to kill the next person to enter the inn. Still in love with the Duke, despite his various dalliances, she sacrifices herself and knocks on the door. Sparafucile kills Gilda. When Rigoletto arrives, he is given a body in a bag. He opens it and is heartbroken to find it is Gilda — alas, Monterone’s curse has come true.

So, overall a depressing story. But that’s opera. The performances were awesome. Nancy Fabiola Herrera as Maddalena, Ekaterina Siurina as Gilda and Joseph Calleja as the Duke were excellent. My favorite was Juan Pons as Rigoletto.

What a wonderful evening! One thing that makes the Opera more accessible is the in-seat translations – at the back of every seat is a slim panel that translates the lyrics into English. So, you activate the device on the back of the seat in front of you and you can laugh along with the jokes. Ah, technology and the arts combining so well – I love it.