Category Archives: Art

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

Chris Ware: “All Together Now”


His New Yorker cover provides a perfect encapsulation of an encapsulating society:

BLOG Fragments

Quote of the day: Commodification of humor


From Lewis H. Lapham , writing at Tomgram:

We have today a second Gilded Age more magnificent than the first, but our contemporary brigade of satirists doesn’t play with fire. The marketing directors who produce the commodity of humor for prime-time television aim to amuse the sheep, not shoot the elephants in the room. They prepare the sarcasm-lite in the form of freeze-dried sound bites meant to be dropped into boiling water at Gridiron dinners, Academy Award ceremonies, and Saturday Night Live. “There is a hell of a distance,” said Dorothy Parker, “between wisecracking and wit. Wit has truth in it.” George Bernard Shaw seconded the motion: “My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world.”

Twain didn’t expect or intend his satire to correct the conduct of Boss Tweed, improve the morals of Commodore Vanderbilt, or stop the same-day deliveries of Congress from Washington to the banks in New York. Nor did he exclude himself from the distinguished company of angry apes rolling around in the mud of their mortality. He knew himself made, like all other men, as “a poor, cheap, wormy thing… a sarcasm, the Creator’s prime miscarriage in inventions,” easily seduced by the “paltry materialisms and mean vanities” that made both himself and America great.

A man at play with the life of his mind overriding the decay of his matter, his laughter the digging himself out of the dung heap of moralizing cowardice that is the consequence of ingesting too much boardwalk taffy. His purpose is that of a physician attending to the liberties of the people shriveled by the ambitions of the state, his belief that it is the courage of a democracy’s dissenting citizens that defends their commonwealth against the despotism of a plutocracy backed up with platitudes, billy clubs, surveillance cameras, and subprime loans.

Read the rest.

CATCH : A Handimation through Glass


Take animation skills and apply them to a series of images captured by Google Glass, and you get a new form of POV video.

Without further ado, from Tu Uthaisri:

CATCH : A Handimation through Glass

Program notes:

A stop motion film about a surreal moment on a lazy Sunday morning. We shot this entirely on Google Glass over 4 days, with over 1000 photos and drawings. Made by a group of animator and filmmaker friends here in New York, jamming on the weekends.

- CREDITS -

MADE BY:
TU (tufilmmaker.com) x
Namroc (artofnamroc.com) x
Freddy (freddyarenas.com) x
Isam Prado (isamprado.com)

PRODUCED BY:
Lisa Steiman, Izabella Tzenkova

MUSIC
Jeremy Turner (hearjt.com)

VOICE
Erez Horovitz

TALENT:
Amy Grantham, Jeremy Zini, James Perkins

CREW:
Atom Pate, Jun Oshima, Jerami Goodwin , Kevin Alters, Justin Alters

SPECIAL THANKS:
Lighthouse Brooklyn – Lighthousebk.com
The Bunker Studio – thebunkerstudio.com
Bigfoote Music+Sound – bigfoote.com

H/T to PetaPixel.

Blast for the past: The aesthetics of killing


Via the marvelous Improbable Research, an amazing 1960 video on intelligent design — of weapons.

Created at the peak of the Cold War, the documentary features George Nelson, a famous and seminal industrial designer most famous for his work as chief designer for Herman Miller Office Furniture.

Some of his remarks are especially critical today, when the tendency he discerned toward remote-control murder has reached a dubious apogee.

From vlogger gnelsonfoundation:

How To Kill People

Program notes:

In the spring of 1960, the aluminum manufacturer Aluminum Extrusions established the “First Chair in Educational Television.”

The company planned a series of self-produced programs, which it wanted to combine with re-performances of cultural programs from commercial broadcasters.

In this 20-minute program, a straight faced George Nelson presented a cultural history of weapon technology, which was at the same time a scathing commentary on the arms race during the Cold War. Its main statement: designers give form to the things that are most important to society and for which society allocates the largest budget because designers always do only what they are paid for.

Video report: TRNN takes on the TPP leak


The acronyms stand for, respectively, The Real News Network and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the latter just exposed by the disclosure of its Intelllectual Property chapter by WikiLeaks.

TRNN’s Jaisal Noor interviews Kevin Zeese, codirector of Popular Resistance and It’s Our Economy about the contents of the chapter and their implications:

Wikileaks Exposes the TPP as a Capitulation to Corporate Interests

From the transcript:

NOOR: So, Kevin, even before this release, the TPP was described as a corporate wish list. What new information have we learned from what WikiLeaks has released?

ZEESE: We learned it’s as bad as we expected. The chapter that was released deals with intellectual property. And what was interesting about it was it really showed that the Obama administration was pushing for the agreement in the direction of the transnational corporations more than any other nation. In fact, other nations are resisting. And many times the United States is isolated, ‘cause it’s so extreme in pushing for corporate power — it’s really quite amazing — going further than he has even said that his administration would go under domestic law. So it’ll make things worse than Obama says he would do at home.

The agreement, what they dealt with was intellectual property. And what that means is copyrights and patents and trademarks and those kinds of things. And what it shows is that these corporate powers that are being given are going to make things much worse for the internet. We’re going to see our internet freedom diminished. It’ll make things much worse for health care. Prices will go up for both pharmaceuticals and for medical procedures. And much worse on almost every aspect of our life where those kinds of powers play. And they play almost all through our lives. This will be corporate power gone wild.

And it’ll be an agreement that you can see was written by the corporations. As you know, for the last almost four years now there have been negotiations, and throughout that time there have been 600 corporate advisers suggesting to the Obama administration, you know, what needs to be done to make the agreement stronger from their perspective. So they’ve been playing in clauses and paragraphs and sections that favor corporate power. So this agreement, which will be over 1,000 pages long, is going to be a totally — written by essentially corporate lawyers for the benefit of transnational corporations.

Banksy: The Banality of the Banality of Evil


By adding a foreground figure to a thrift shop painting. Banksy created a work that just sold for $615,000, with the benefits going to the charity that runs the thrift shop from which he bought it.

Somehow it’s an appropriate work to epitomize these curious times we live in. . .

nazitight

 

A visual treat: Animation, created with light


From Darren Parson:

Light Goes On

Here’s how he describes himself on his website:

Darren Pearson is a resident of Los Angeles, where he works as a fulltime illustrator by day.

By night, he explores the varying landscapes of California in search of the perfect scene for one of his life-sized light-sculptures.

These light-sculptures are created through long exposure photography (the same technique commonly used to write a name with a sparkler or capture car trails at night).

Pearson makes complex light-effect photographs, none of which are photoshopped.

His Girl Friday: From Bromance to romance


Via Public Domain Movies:

His Girl Friday [Howard Hawks, 1940]

One of our favorite films, Howard Hawks transformed a stage play based on the banter between two male journalists into a romance — and all because the director liked the way his secretary recited the lines in a reading.

It’s a classic newsroom story, set in the days when print was king.

Starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell [who only got the part after Ginger Rogers, Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunn, and at least three others turned it down], the film revolutionized on-screen dialogue, both for the speed at which the words were spoken and because it’s the first film where actors repeatedly spoke over each others’ words.

Based on The Front Page, a stage play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, the script was adapted for the screen with the help of Charles Lederer — though some of the best lines were delivered as ad libs.

Gray, who plays editor Walter Burns, is arrested at one point and told by the mayor, “You’re through,” to which he responds, “Listen the last man that said that to me was Archie Leach just a week before he cut his throat.” The name of Grant’s birth certificate is Archibald Leach.

In another scene he tells Russell her finance “looks like that fellow in the movies — Ralph Bellamy.” The actor playing the role was Bellamy.

So nuke some popcorn, sit back, and be prepared to be entertained. . .

Musical flashmobs: A tricontinental excursion


It’s been a while since we featured a musical flashmob compilation [previously], so we figured it’s about time to do it again, this time weith a tricontinental edition.

We begin in Europe with an offering from the soloists, choir, and musicians of the Vienna Volksoper, presenting a delightful interlude in the Austrian capital’s main railway station, on 4 June 2012:

Flashmob Carmina Burana

Program notes [via Google translation]:

Soloists, Choir, Orchestra of the Vienna Volksoper gave a special performance in April, passengers and pedestrians. The artists broke away from the crowd – a “passer” began, more “passers” – as well as employees of ÖBB-clad artists – sat by and by

And from the main railway station [Hauptbahnhof] in Berlin, an all-woman brass band [Frauenblasorchester] staged their own flashmob last 13 May:

Flashmob Hauptbahnhof Berlin Frauenblasorchester

From the Gare du Nord in Paris, a flashmob performance of Bizet’s Arlesienne:

Program notes:

Thursday, November 17, 2011, 60 musicians showed up to play an excerpt of the “Arlesienne” by Bizet in the hall of Paris North station !

This flashmob launched the fourth edition of Orchestres en fête !, a tremendous and nationwide event organized since 2008. For ten days in November, 41 orchestras, all members of the French Association of Orchestras open their doors to everyone. All the events set up during Orchestres en fête !, like this flashmob, are dedicated to show that classical music lives in the very heart of the city !

And it’s not just in the stations. Here’s a video from the Berlin subway [U-Bahn]:

Was passiert wenn ein Mädchen in der U-Bahn anfängt zu singen? [What happens when a girl starts singing in the subway?]

Program notes [via Google translation]:

Girl catches the metro, starts to sing, passengers are totally confused, but then …

From Berlin’s main railway station again, another flashmob, this time featuring the dancing of the Berlin State Ballet:

Flashmob Hauptbahnhof Berlin Staatsballett Berlin

Program notes:

On March, 3rd 2011, at 5 pm at the main station in Berlin an unusual performance catched the attention of the travelers at the station! The event allowed Vladimir Malakhov and his company, the staff of the Staatsballett Berlin and the ballet and dancing schools to promote the new dance piece “OZ – The Wonderful Wizard” by Giorgio Madia.

On March 12th 2011 the Staatsballett Berlin-world premiere about the fantastic journey of little Dorothy took place at Komische Oper Berlin.

The performance at the main station was choreographed extra for this event by Giorgio Madia. The young dancers learned it at home by video or at their ballet and dancing schools.

Next, an offering from Cologne:

Star Wars Flashmob auf dem Wallrafplatz | WDR Rundfunkorchester | ARD

Program notes:

On the 1st of October [2012] the WDR Radio Orchestra mingled with the crowds on Cologne Wallrafplatz and surprised with well-known tones from a galaxy far, far away….

The WRO cherishes all kinds of good music, counting Operettas and Jazz, Rock and Pop, film and video game music to its repertoire.

And who knew? Square dancing, which every Colorado fifth grader had to learn, is alive and well in Germany. Our next video comes from Ruhr Park in Bochum, Germany, and features a square dancing flash mob:

Square Dance Flashmob Ruhr Park Bochum 23. Juli 2011

From Down Under, another sort of flashmob, featuring folks who didn’t have to travel:

Argo Opera Flash Mob

Program notes:

A normal saturday afternoon at Argo On The Parade in Adelaide, South Australia where the staff simply had the urge to break out into song. Its one of the ways we like to surprise our customers and give back to the community.

Finally, the most unlikely of flashmobs, and from the Big Apple:

Pipe Band Flash Mob at Battery Park, 8/25/12.

Nader slams Fenstein over Berkeley P.O. sale


And not just Berkeley’s.

From his blog:

October 2, 2013

Dear Senator Feinstein,

This summer protests broke out over the upcoming closure and sale of a historic post office in downtown Berkeley, California.

This century old post office represents a piece of our collective history. It contains New Deal-era murals, architecture and artwork.

Not to mention, it was paid for by the public. Now, against the wishes of many in the Berkeley community, this historic post office is set to be closed and sold off. Unfortunately, post offices across the country, many of which have comparable rich historical value of Berkeley’s downtown post office, are on the chopping block to be closed and sold.

That we have resorted to selling off valuable pieces of our country’s heritage is shameful. But even more reprehensible is the process by which these post offices are being sold off; and this is the reason that we are writing you.

C.B. Richard Ellis Group, Inc. (CBRE), the company chaired by your husband, Richard Blum, has an exclusive contract to negotiate the nationwide sales of U.S. Postal Service (USPS) real estate. An investigative journalist, Peter Byrne, brought to light some of the most disconcerting aspects of CBRE’s involvement in the sale of post offices throughout the country in an article for the East Bay Express titled “Going Postal” (he has also written an e-book by the same name that goes into more detail on the subject).

The highlights from Mr. Byrne’s article indicate that CBRE’s actions in the sale of the USPS’s real estate portfolio are suspicious at best. According to the article, CBRE was awarded its exclusive contract with the USPS in June 2011. The contract requires CBRE to sell postal service properties at or above fair market value. However, the contract also allows CBRE to conduct its own appraisals of each property. Appraisals are best conducted by parties not involved in the sale of the property. The existing contractual arrangement gives CBRE unusual control over determining the value of a property and creates the potential for conflicts of interest.

To demonstrate the problems that this contractual arrangement creates, one only needs to look at the sale of properties CBRE has executed. Mr. Byrne reported that in the first two years of its contract, CBRE sold 52 postal properties at $66 million less than their assessed value. Two examples he cites include an office building CBRE sold in 2011 in Seattle for $8 million that was assessed at $16 million, and a building in St. Paul, Minnesota that sold for about $20 million under its 2009 assessed value of nearly $25 million.

Perhaps of even greater concern is that, according to Mr. Byrne, CBRE has sold 20 percent of the postal service’s real estate portfolio that has been sold to date to its own clients or business partners. Byrne reports that it seems as though CBRE likely represented both the seller and buyer in a number of postal property sales, which if true, would reflect a serious conflict of interest. It would also raise serious ethical concerns about CBRE’s business practices. Disturbingly, Byrne reports that “CBRE’s contract was amended in 2012, at the request of CBRE, to allow it to negotiate on behalf of both the Postal Service and prospective buyers.” How can the U.S. Postal Service reasonably expect that CBRE would obtain the highest value possible for postal properties if CBRE represents both sides of the transaction?

In a June 2013 report, the USPS’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) echoed many of the same types of concerns that Mr. Byrne has revealed. The OIG tellingly observes that, “Outsourcing real estate management services to one supplier is a fundamental change from how the Postal Service previously managed its real estate portfolio.” Notably, the OIG’s report expressed concern about: the potential for a conflict of interest when CBRE is allowed to negotiate on behalf of the seller, the USPS, as well as the buyer; the lack of proper oversight of the CBRE contract; and a failure to establish a maximum contract value, which could lead to cost overruns.

As we have repeatedly said, the U.S. Postal Service is facing a congressionally manufactured financial crisis. Eighty percent of the USPS’s losses since 2006 are directly attributable to the unreasonable requirement enacted in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 that the USPS prefund its future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years in just a ten year time frame. No other private corporation or government agency that we are familiar with is required to bear such a burden. One of your colleagues, Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), echoed this sentiment in May 2012 when he said “Ninety-four percent of the Postal Service’s losses this year are a direct result of an onerous payment, unprecedented in either government agencies or private corporations, to pre-fund 75 years of future retiree health benefits in a 10-year period.”

And of course, this doesn’t even address the fact that the USPS has overpaid between $50 billion and $75 billion to federal pension funds for its employees that the federal government has failed to repay. That makes the USPS a creditor of the U.S. government – more than can be said of large bailed out corporations such as the big banks.

So, in light of those facts, many of these post office sales are not necessary. But is it any wonder that you haven’t been particularly outspoken on this issue in light of the fact that you and your husband, Richard Blum, stand to gain generously from his connection to the sale of post offices throughout the country?

To remove all doubt of impropriety, you should: introduce and champion a bill to immediately suspend all sales of postal properties throughout the country; and call for a close examination of the contract between CBRE and the USPS to sell postal properties.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader and Jeff Musto

Video: Antoni Gaudí’s vision nears completion


Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí’s Catalan creations are remarkably unique, blending the elements of the classical with the sinuous playfulness of Art Nouveau.

Seven of his works have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, as awesome today as when they first created.

But his most famous creation remains unfished, started in 1882 and due — finally — 144 years later in 2025, the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família in Barcelona.

Via Gizmodo, a remarkable animation of what the finished edifice will look like

2026 We build tomorrow

From Gizmodo:

When Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí was tragically killed by a train in 1926, he was in the middle of building of his masterpiece—the Barcelona basilica, Sagrada Familia. Eighty-six years later, the church still isn’t complete. But according to Jordi Faulí, the current architect on the magnificent life-sized sand castle, it’ll be done by 2026. This is what it’s going to look like.

Construction on Sagrada Familia began in 1882, and since Gaudí’s death, nine architects have been put on the famously never-ending project. One of the controversial roadblocks to its completion was the fire in the crypt of Sagrada Familia in 1936, which destroyed all the plans, sketches, and models Gaudí had left behind, forcing later designers to interpret what they thought the brilliant Gaudí wanted the basilica to look like.

This video shows what the culmination of the work being funded mainly through public donations, including the massive, yet-to-be-finished 564-foo tower at its center. But a lot can happen between now and 2026—so we’ll believe it when we see it.

Elmore Leonard, 87, a hard boiled paragon


Elmore Leonard, like Raymond Chandler, wrote like a slumming angel.

His first words for hire were Chevrolet commercials, but he loved the hard-boiled stuff, the tersely worded, hard-hitting stories that filled the pulp magazines once so beloved of kids who read by flashlight under the covers.

He started out writing Westerns, then moved his characters into the present, and always somewhere in the background were directors, hungry for spare, cinematic visions.

Like all good writers of the hard boiled genre, Leonard knew just how to insert tongue in cheek, ensuring there were always laughs to accompany the shudders.

Elmore Leonard’s gone now. He died today, ending a solid 87-year run.

We’ll miss him, both at the movies and under the covers.

We leave with images and words:

Elmore Leonard on Writing

From vlogger Nettoyeur71:

Mr Majestyk’, ‘Stick’, ‘Cat Chaser’, ‘52 Pick up’ – just some of the colourful, clever and very exciting thrillers penned by Mr Elmore Leonard. Here he talks about his career to date, and gives us a lil insight into his writing methods.

This is a 2006 interview repeated recently which I managed to grab off the iplayer.

Elmore Leonard At the Movies Compilation

From vlogger Gregg Sutter:

A compilation of Elmore Leonard’s movies assembled to honor his 75th Birthday, It was shown at the Telluride Film Festival at a Variety event in the year 2000.

From the Criterion Collection:

Elmore Leonard on 3:10 to Yuma

Scenes of a Berkeley Post Office occupation


On a visit to the downtown Berkeley office on a gray August morning, we grabbed some shots of the encampment set up by folks protesting the sale of the Berkeley Post Office, a landmark both figuratively and literally and home to some classic Depression-era public art.

The building’s been ordered on the auction block as part of the drive to sell out the public commons that continues regardless of which of the two parties holds power.

Oh, and the sale has been placed in the hands of a real estate company owned by Sen. Diane Feinstein’s plutocratic spouse. Some Hope. Some Change.

Information tables and tents

3 August 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 100, 3.3 mm, 1/500 sec, f3.3

3 August 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 100, 3.3 mm, 1/500 sec, f3.3

A sign with its own postage

3 August 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 100, 9 mm, 1/40 sec, f4.4

3 August 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 100, 9 mm, 1/40 sec, f4.4

Inside, gathering up the mail

3 August 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 320, 4.3 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.3

3 August 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 320, 4.3 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.3

A WPA mural adorns the postmaster’s doorway

3 August 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 400, 4.3 mm, 1/40 sec, f3.3

3 August 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 400, 4.3 mm, 1/40 sec, f3.3

Detail, left hand figure, the vaquero

3 August 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 400, 4.3 mm, 1/25 sec, f3.3

3 August 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 400, 4.3 mm, 1/25 sec, f3.3

On the left, a padre reads a scroll

3 August 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 320, 3.3 mm, 1/40 sec, f4.3

3 August 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 320, 3.3 mm, 1/40 sec, f4.3

The scroll:

Berkeley

Pedro Fages and Fray Juan Crespi
first white men to set foot on land
now Berkeley, 1770-1772.
Luis Maria Peralta,
young solder, Anza Expedition
becomes first land owner
Randho San Antonio
1820
his son Jose Domingo
is first resident.
American settlers, squatters,
lease holders, hunters arrive
Town selected for College Site
1858.
University dedicated 1860.
Town named after Bishop G. Berkeley
1866.
First Post Office established
in Dr. Merrill’s drug store 1877.

Painted by Susan Scheuer
Treasury Relief Art Project
1936 ’37.

MORE PHOTOS AFTER THE JUMP Continue reading

A video excursion: From Hamlet to frozen peas


The ghost of Hamlet’s father as the pivotal and greatest role in Shakespeare’s most famous play?

So argue two of the greatest actors ever to grace the stage in this fascinating excerpt from a conversation conducted 50 years ago.

Orson Welles and Peter O’Toole on Hamlet

From vlogger TextundBuehne, who writes:

This is an excerpt from the program “Monitor” (recorded in October 1963 at the BBC). Right around this time O’Toole was playing Hamlet at the National Theatre, under the direction of Laurence Olivier. Also in the conversation are Huw Wheldon (the host) and veteran actor Ernest Milton.

And another take on Hamlet, with Shakespeare, confronting every writer’s nemesis, the pedantic editor, and played by two brilliant comedians.

Rowan Atkinson & Hugh Laurie — Shakespeare and Hamlet (1989)

From vlogger Nathaniel Brechtmann, who writes:

A sketch called “A Small Rewrite”, performed by Hugh Laurie (aka House) as Shakespeare and Rowan Aktinson (aka Mr Bean) as the editor.

For a radical change of pace, we return to an older, more embittered Welles, venting his critical wrath as he is forced to support himself reading 1970 voice-over ads for British frozen peas.

The rant has achieved cult status in “the industry,” and has been the subject for a raft of homages. Here are two of them, both animations.

First, from the animated series Pinky and The Brain

Yes, Always – Pinky and the Brain Parody of Orson Welles Rant

From vlogger CaptKirby 18:

This is an intelligent adaptation of an angry real life rant by Orson Welles from the Animaniacs run of Pinky and the Brain. It mostly mirrors the rant, although it replaces some parts like “go down on you” with “make cheese for you,” both for censorship and humor purposes. It makes it funnier, in my opinion…

Overall, this is an example of a good adaptation that definitely proves the show’s mousy worth! The art (movement) of the human involved is awful, but it does not detract tooooo much.

And then there’s this from vlogger Keith172:

Rosebud Frozen Peas

The program notes:

This is a clip from the animated series ‘The Critic’ featuring Orson Welles (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) advertising Rosebud Frozen Peas. The title of this episode is “Eyes on the Prize”.

Mickey Mouse In Vietnam, subversion from 1968


A blast from the past and one of two great iconic animation shorts that came out of the late 1960s, Mickey Mouse in Vietnam subverts a cartoon icon in a sudden, dramatic, and absolutely final way.

Vlogger Sandip Mahal writes:

In 1968, an underground, anti-war short film was produced by Lee Savage and Milton Glaser called Mickey Mouse in Vietnam.

The short (unofficially) starred Mickey Mouse in a one minute animation that depicted the Disney icon travelling to Vietnam in a boat, entering the country, and being immediately shot in the head. The film was shown to associates of the creators in 1970 and onward. It is rumoured (though unconfirmed) that Disney tried to destroy every copy that they could get in their possession.

Until recently, the only known copies available for public viewing were one owned by the Sarajevo Film Festival (although the last time it was played there was in 2010), and one included on the Film-makers’ Coop’s 38 minute, 16mm collection reel titled For Life, Against the War (Selections), available for rental at $75 (though only to members of relevant organisations). The only pieces of hard evidence of the short’s existence available online were a few screenshots (all but one found in a 1998 French book entitled ‘Bon Anniversaire, Mickey!’).

Savage was an animation painter and Glaser a graphic designer whose most famous creation is the “I ♥ NY” logo.

As for the other cartoon? Here tis. . .a 1959 creation of Marv Newland subverting yet another Disney icon.

Bambi Meets Godzilla

Free trade pact threatens Euro film industry


Negotiations for a massive new U.S.-E.U. Free Trade Agreement threatens a European institution, a once flourishing film industry already under threat by the overwhelming power of Hollywood’s marketing machine.

The proposed elimination of national film subsidies could prove the last straw for independent productions.

From Euronews:

French actress Bejo asks EU to protect European cinema

The accompanying Euronews text story reports on European film figures who fear the free trade agreement now in the drafting stage would force European nations to drop subsidies for their domestic film industries, rendering them vulnerable to domination by the Hollywood regime.

The clip features Bérénice Bejo, who starred in the Oscar-winning 2011 French film, The Artist:

Bejo told euronews: “I grew up with American films and culture. It’s very good that it exists and I totally support this culture. I don’t reject it at all, but I think for both of us it is important to have choice and counter-balance.”

France wants its entire audiovisual sector excluded from negotiations.

Director Costa Gavras said a free trade deal with the United States would put the industry, and those who work in it, at risk.

“They are several thousand people who work in the audiovisual sector in Europe. If this cultural exception is scrapped, many films simply won’t get made; cinemas will close; directors and actors will find themselves out of work,” he said in an interview with euronews.

Read the rest.

From Agence France-Presse, here’s a second video report on the European film industry worries:

Euro cinema threatened by free trade accord with US

The program notes:

The EU’s cherished ‘cultural exception’ is under threat according to a delegation of European filmmakers during talks on a massive free trade accord with the United States.

Worries even in Hollywood itself

It’s not just Europe that’s feeling the heat of a changing landscape. Even the most venerable names in the Hollywood pantheon are sweating bullets over the future of the cinema, as Bryan Bishop notes in a provocative piece for The Verge:

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg think the film industry is heading towards a cliff. The pair behind some of the most successful franchises in movie history think that conservative programming choices and rapidly evolving distribution schemes have set the stage for a massive upheaval — and internet-based services may become the dominant medium when moviegoing as we know it crashes and burns.

The duo were joined during a panel at the University of Southern California by Microsoft’s president of interactive entertainment Don Mattrick, who played backup with the occasional Xbox reference as Lucas and Spielberg took center stage. While the focus was ostensibly on the future of the entertainment medium — USC just opened a new building for the school’s Interactive Media department — the topic quickly pivoted to the state of film distribution in a world where everything from games to television are competing for consumers’ attention.

Read the rest.