Category Archives: Art

And now for a word from our sponsor. . .


BLOG Kubrick

Actually, we don’t have sponsors [other than those ads WordPress inserts to to pay for the costs of giving sites free to folks like esnl. . .

What caught our eye over at Boing Boing was an art show inspired by one of our favorite filmmakers, Stanley Kubrick.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was an almost life-changing experience for us on its release in 1964, as we wrote in a post which also includes the film itself:

We recall our own first impression of the film as a college student in Colorado. First we felt a momentary sense of outrage, quickly followed by the first of very many outbursts of cathartic laughter.

The poster image is drawn from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the enigmatic 1968 film that captured so well both the aspirations and the fears of a cultural revolution then at its peak.

A brilliant, exacting, and often exasperating director, his filmography covers a wide range of human experience on which to draw.

According to the gallery’s website [their dates in the text are wrong, with the right dates (September rather than August) on the poster]:

Spoke Art is proud to present: KUBRICK – An art show tribute to the films of Stanley Kubrick. Over 60 artists were invited to re-imagine their favorite characters, scenes and thematic concepts from one of the world’s most prolific directors. Spanning a plethora of mediums from sculpture and painting to limited edition prints, the show seeks to honor one of the 20th century’s most significant directors while also reinterpreting his impact in a contemporary context.

>snip<

All the artists were allowed to select the film of their choosing, there were no guidelines on subject matter or content. Each artist was given free reign to re-interpret and render their take on Kubrick’s entire cinematic collection. Resulting in a variegated display, KUBRICK is an experiment in modernity, a cross-section between film and art.

We certainly hope to have a look, health willing.

Banksy: Intermediated love, NSA chaperoned


The title’s ours, not his. From his website:

BLOG Banksy

Quote of the day: Secrets of a long life


From an interview of venerable 85-year-old feminist, artist, and fellow Kansas native Betty Dodson in the Guardian:

We meet in her rent-controlled apartment on Madison Avenue where she has lived since 1962. Dodson arrived in New York, fresh from Kansas, in 1950 to train as an artist; the walls of her living room are lined with her own paintings of erotic couplings and blown-glass sex toys. When she held orgies here in the 1960s (“there’s no furniture you can’t move”) she realised that many women were faking pleasure. Her original women-only masturbation – “bodysex” – classes took place here from the early 70s for 15 years with an ideal number of 13 per class.

Although she was described as one of the “early feminists” by Gloria Steinem, she felt out of place in the consciousness-raising groups of the time. “I always thought sex was a top-priority issue,” she says, pouring herself a whisky. “Feminists like Gloria Steinem thought it was private.” (She chuckles, “I love Gloria. I used to call her ‘the general’.”)

Dodson has a mouth like a sailor and the easy manner of a wisecracking Scorsese character. She looks incredible, with a zest for life that belies her age. She credits “masturbation, pot and raw garlic”.

Some examples of her art [some decidedly NSFW] here.

Fund-raiser? No, call it a fun-raiser [giggle]


What happens when you add legal cannabis to the menu of all those hoity toity parties, er, affairs?

Thanks to the vigilant folks at the London Telegraph, we now have the answer:

Cannabis and canapes at a Colorado art gallery

From the accompanying story by Nick Allen:

Relaxing on a plush black leather sofa while waiters supply canapes of Camembert stuffed with fig butter, Candy Nuss, 59, and her sister CynDee Williams, 62, a grandmother-of-four, are giggling like schoolgirls.

“I brought some marijuana with me tonight,” Candy says as she opens a silver case revealing two carefully rolled joints. “It’s called sour diesel. It’s a great strain that’s really tasty. It’s beautiful. A really good high!”

Conservatively dressed and bespectacled, the sisters would not look out of place at a Women’s Institute meeting. Instead, they are attending a “cannabis-friendly” evening at a high end art gallery in downtown Denver.

Nearly a month after Colorado became the first US state to legalise recreational use of the drug, taxing its sale, the party is the first attempt to cater for a more sophisticated type of user.

Read the rest.

Headlines of the day I: Big Brother, zone zealots


Today’s walk on the dark side begins with the latest in provoked [by Edward Snowden] political posturing from the New York Times:

Obama Calls for Overhaul of N.S.A.’s Phone Data Collection Program

President Obama, declaring that advances in technology had made it harder “to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties,” announced carefully calculated changes to surveillance policies on Friday, saying he would restrict the ability of intelligence agencies to gain access to telephone data, and would ultimately move that data out of the hands of the government.

But Mr. Obama left in place significant elements of the broad surveillance net assembled by the National Security Agency, and left the implementation of many of his changes up to Congress and the intelligence agencies themselves.

Another take, from The Guardian:

Obama presents NSA reforms with plan to end government storage of call data

  • President stops short of ending controversial bulk collection
  • Obama assures allied foreign leaders on NSA surveillance
  • Reforms also include added Fisa court safeguards

US president Barack Obama forcefully defended the embattled National Security Agency on Friday in a speech that outlined a series of surveillance reforms but stopped well short of demanding an end to the bulk collection of American phone data.

In his widely anticipated address at the Justice Department on the future course of US surveillance policy, Obama said the government should no longer hold databases of every call record made in the United States, citing the “potential for abuse”.

But Obama did not say what should replace the databases and made it clear the intelligence agencies should still be able to access call records information in some unspecified way, signalling a new round in the battle between privacy advocates and the NSA’s allies.

Still another take, also from The Guardian:

Obama’s NSA ‘reforms’ are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public

  • Obama is draping the banner of change over the NSA status quo. Bulk surveillance that caused such outrage will remain in place

In response to political scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the same well-worn tactic. It is the one that has been hauled out over decades in response to many of America’s most significant political scandals. Predictably, it is the same one that shaped President Obama’s much-heralded Friday speech to announce his proposals for “reforming” the National Security Agency in the wake of seven months of intense worldwide controversy.

The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are “serious questions that have been raised”. They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic “reforms” so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.

And seen from Germany by TheLocal.de:

Obama: We won’t tap allies’ phones

US president Barack Obama announced on Friday in a speech that he would restrict the NSA’s powers. It will no longer be allowed to monitor phones of allied country leaders, including Germany.

The National Security Agency (NSA) will have to get the permission of a special court to view mass telephone data, Obama said from Washington, in a hotly anticipated speech following Edward Snowden’s revealing of the country’s mass spying programmes.

Mass data will also no longer be stored by the NSA, making it harder to access, he said. This curbing should “protect the privacy and civil liberties, no matter their nationality or where they are.”

A laconic techie take from The Register:

Obama reveals tiny NSA reforms … aka reforming your view of the NSA

  • Prez announces tweaks here and there for ordinary American citizens

From TheHill, a critical take:

Critics: Obama spy plan keeps status quo for NSA

Privacy rights advocates and tech companies on Friday dismissed President Obama’s proposed overhaul of government surveillance as preserving the status quo.

CNN parses semantics:

Despite Obama’s NSA changes, phone records still collected

After the firestorm over Edward Snowden’s disclosure of U.S. surveillance programs, the most contentious aspect revealed by last year’s classified leaks will continue under reforms announced Friday by President Barack Obama.

Someone will still collect records of the numbers and times of phone calls by every American.

While access to the those records will be tightened and they may be shifted from the National Security Agency to elsewhere, the storage of the phone metadata goes on.

The Guardian gets itchy:

US telecoms giants express unease about proposed NSA metadata reforms

  • AT&T concerned US may force company to retain data
  • Tech firms hail ‘positive progress’ on privacy protections

Privately, telecoms executives have expressed concern that they will be forced to retain customers’ metadata – information about call duration, recipients and location. Speaking anonymously, one executive said the firms were concerned about how long they would have to keep data, which government agencies would have access to it and what protections they would have should there be legal challenges to their retention or distribution of the information.

The Verge has the predictable praise:

Intelligence and defense leaders offer support for Obama’s NSA reforms

President Obama today announced his approach to reforming some government surveillance practices, and at least for right now, the US intelligence and defense communities are supportive of those ideas. Both Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have issued statements vouching for the changes outlined in Obama’s speech. “These programs must always balance the need to defend our national security with the responsibility to preserve America’s individual liberties, and the President’s decisions and recommendations will do that,” said Hagel in a statement.

Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Mike Rogers, who lead the Senate Intelligence Committee and House Intelligence Committee respectively, also seemed happy with Obama’s speech. According to a joint statement, they “look forward to working with the president to increase confidence in these programs.” Not everyone was impressed with Obama’s remarks. Senator Rand Paul said the new strategy basically amounts to “the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration.”

Roseate musing from The Guardian:

NSA critics in Congress sense reform momentum after Obama speech

  • Three new co-sponsors for USA Freedom Act
  • Sensenbrenner: ‘Reform cannot be done by presidential fiat’

Critics of National Security Agency surveillance are hoping President Barack Obama’s call to stop government collection of telephone data will give fresh momentum to legislation aimed at banning the practice entirely.

On Friday, three new co-sponsors joined the 120 congressmen who have already backed the so-called USA Freedom Act, but their reform bill faces tough competition from rival lawmakers who claim the president’s broad support for the NSA favours separate efforts to protect its powers.

Reviews from abroad via The Guardian:

Obama NSA reforms receive mixed response in Europe and Brazil

  • EU commissioner says speech is a step in right direction, but German ex-minister says changes fail to tackle root problem

Europeans were largely underwhelmed by Barack Obama’s speech on limited reform of US espionage practices, saying the measures did not go far enough to address concerns over American snooping on its European allies.

A compendium of the  eurocommentariat from the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

European commentators see little to praise in Obama’s NSA changes

President Barack Obama’s highly anticipated revisions to the National Security Agency international spying program didn’t come close to satisfying European commentators.

The French newspaper Le Monde called them “timid and partial.” The British newspaper The Guardian referred to them as “sleight of hand.” The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel called them “Refoermchen,” meaning less than a real reform, or a “tiny reform.” The Russian news agency Novosti reminded its audience that “neither the reform nor the statement would have happened without the leaks from Edward Snowden,” a former NSA contract worker who began leaking secret files back in June. The German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau simply noted in a headline: “Obama disappoints the world.”

The reason? The speech made it clear to Europeans that the Obama administration intends to continue to collect almost as much data as it always has, but has promised not to use it unless necessary. To Europeans, who since last summer have grown increasingly distrustful of the intentions of the American spy program, such words are of little comfort.

Wired wonders:

So what did the tech companies get?

As expected, they will have more freedom to disclose the number and the nature of requests from the government for data related to national-security concerns. So we can expect more detailed transparency reports from the companies showing that they only provide a fraction of their information to the government.

Additionally, the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will add members with expertise in civil liberties and technology and will declassify more of its decisions.

BuzzFeed gets to the bottom of it:

America’s Spies Want Edward Snowden Dead

  • “I would love to put a bullet in his head,” one Pentagon official told BuzzFeed.

The NSA leaker is enemy No. 1 among those inside the intelligence world.

Edward Snowden has made some dangerous enemies. As the American intelligence community struggles to contain the public damage done by the former National Security Agency contractor’s revelations of mass domestic spying, intelligence operators have continued to seethe in very personal terms against the 30-year-old whistle-blower.

“In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself,” a current NSA analyst told BuzzFeed. “A lot of people share this sentiment.”

Also drawing considerable attention was the latest Snowden leak from The Guardian:

NSA collects millions of text messages daily in ‘untargeted’ global sweep

  • NSA extracts location, contacts and financial transactions
  • ‘Dishfire’ program sweeps up ‘pretty much everything it can’
  • GCHQ using database to search metadata from UK numbers

The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents.

The untargeted collection and storage of SMS messages – including their contacts – is revealed in a joint investigation between the Guardian and the UK’s Channel 4 News based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The documents also reveal the UK spy agency GCHQ has made use of the NSA database to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications belonging to people in the UK.

The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects “pretty much everything it can”, according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets.

The Wire sums up:

NSA on Text Messages: ‘A Goldmine to Exploit’

If you were curious: Yes, the National Security Agency is collecting and filtering text messages to the tune of 194 million a day. It’s a collection of data that one agency slide, obtained by The Guardian from leaker Edward Snowden, called “a goldmine to exploit.”

The Guardian details the NSA’s text message collection infrastructure in a new report, including its massive scale.

  • The agencies collect 194 million messages a day.
  • They include 76,000 geocoordinates for users, thanks to people seeking directions or setting up meetings.
  • The agencies track 1.6 million border crossings and 5,000-plus occurrences in which someone is traveling.
  • They’re able to link hundreds of thousands of financial transactions.
  • They collect over 5 million missed call alerts, which then get pushed into the “contact-chaining” system, building out the NSA’s ad hoc social network.

More from The Guardian:

NSA leaks: Dishfire revelations expose the flaws in British laws on surveillance

How can we have a meaningful debate about excessive snooping when so much information is a state secret?

What we have no words for we cannot discuss except crudely. The latest revelation about the security services brings a new word to our growing vocabulary: Dishfire. This week’s exposé reveals the NSA collecting and extracting personal information from hundreds of millions of text messages a day. While messages from US phone numbers are removed from the database, documents show GCHQ used it to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications belonging to British citizens.

We are not so much free citizens, innocent until proven guilty, but rather, as one of the Dishfire slides says, a “rich data set awaiting exploitation”. Prism, Tempora, Upstream, Bullrun – as our language grows we begin to speak with greater clarity. We move from James Bond fantasies to a greater understanding of what the intelligence services actually do in our name and with our money. Is indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance the best way to protect democracy?

NSA Dishfire presentation on text message collection – key extracts

A pre-Obamacast declaration from The Hill:

Sen. Leahy on NSA claim: ‘Baloney’

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Thursday the National Security Agency’s claim that they’re “very protective” of Americans’ information is “baloney.”

Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” that the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program has not thwarted a single terrorist attack.

President Obama, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, and lawmakers, such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), have said the program has helped stop at least 50 terrorist plots.

“The other thing that keeps striking me is that [the NSA says] ‘we’re very protective of this information.’ Baloney,” Leahy said. “They weren’t protective enough that they could stop a sub-contractor, Mr. Snowden, from stealing millions of their biggest secrets. To this day, they still don’t know all of what he’s stolen.”

Leahy has introduced several bills that would change the NSA’s operations. One bill, the USA Freedom Act, would end the NSA’s metadata program.

After the jump, European blowback, German inquiries, NSA-tech-enabled hackers,  compliant corporations, direct action claims, lethal attack on the press, another Mideast causus belli debunked, Asian crises hit the textbooks, claims, zones, corporate espionage, a Google setback, and more. . . Continue reading

Following up. . .the ice festival underway


After yesterday’s videos of preparations for the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, here are three reports of the event now underway in thevery chilly capital of Heilongjiang province in northeastern China.

First, from Britain’s Channel 4 News:

Ice and snow festival opens in China

Program notes:

Ice sculptures, light shows and sledging: the 30th international ice and snow festival opens in Harbin, northeast China, where temperatures of minus 28 degrees Celsius have not stopped tourists and local from flocking to see the sights.

And the second video, from BBC News, with historical allusions in the title:

China ice festival’s giant crystal palace

Program notes:

An annual winter carnival has opened in the north-east China city of Harbin. The month-long Harbin ice and snow festival is one of the world’s largest. The largest snow sculpture is 120 metres (390 feet) long, while the “Crystal Castle,” an ice-carving project finished in December, towers over the winter theme park at a height of 48 metres (160 feet). Donna Larsen reports.

Finally, raw footage from the Associated Press:

Raw: Ice Festival Dazzles in Light

Program note:

Tourists from all over the world braved the minus 20 degree temperatures in Harbin, China on Sunday.

Lights! Cameras! And. . .Freeze: Harbin Ice Festival


Yep, it’s that time of year, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is back for the 29th time. Every year it’s bigger and the constructions more elaborate. Each year also seem to bringer an ever-greater, ever more flgrant corporate presence.

But it’s still a remarkable show, and it’s already underway on the other side of the International Date Line. . .

From ITN, a look at what happen before the lights go on:

Ice Festival preparations hot up in Harbin, China

Program notes:

Over 7,000 artists and workers in the norhern Chinese city of Harbin are working around the clock putting the finishing touches to the annual Ice Festival grounds. Now in its 30th year, the Ice Festival features huge sculptures of famous buildings, a gigantic 240-metre-long ice slide and even a loving tribute to Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s globe trotting rubber duck. According to the festival’s organiser over 180,000 square metres of ice and 150,000 square metres of snow have been used in constructing the winter wonderland. To coincide with the 30th anniverary the festival is on a much larger scale than previous years and features sponsorship from big name companies like Samsung. Over one million visitors are expected to attend the festival which officially opens on Sunday. Report by Laurie Blake.

Net, more construction and the first illumination, via euronews:

Ice City: First look at 2014 ice & snow festival in China’s Harbin

Program notes:

China’s northeastern city of Harbin has finished the preparations for a preview event of its annual ice and snow festival, organizers said on Saturday. The one-month-long festival will officially begin on January 5, 2014, but many of the exhibits opened on a test basis on Sunday and are likely to remain open if the weather permits.

The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, now in its 30th edition, draws crowds from across China and abroad with unique sculptures illuminated by multicolored electric lights encased in translucent ice. The Harbin festival is one of the world’s four largest ice and snow festivals, which also include Japan’s Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada’s Quebec City Winter Carnival and Norway’s Skiing Festival.

Harbin, known in China as the “Ice City”, is under the direct influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia. The city’s temperatures in January average minus 18 degrees Celsius.

Next, from Valeriu Margescu, a slideshow view with [LOUD piano score] of the 2013 festival:

Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival 2013 V M

Program note:

PowerPoint, converted to WMV.

And, finally, a video look at the 2011 festival.

2011 Harbin China Ice Sculpture Festival