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Saturday, August 8, 2009

RIP Mike Seeger, Folk Musician

Folk Music's Mike Seeger Dead : NPR
August 8, 2009 - Mike Seeger, whose love for traditional songs and tunes inspired many other musicians — including Bob Dylan — to look for the rural roots of American music, died of cancer Friday night at his home in Lexington, Va. He was 75.

Seeger was a highly respected performer and collector of traditional music and a major force in giving rural Southern musicians a wider audience. He became a spark plug for the revival of interest in American music traditions in the second half of the 20th century.

He was born into a prominent musical family. His half-brother Pete and sister Peggy are renowned musicians and social activists. His father, Charles, was a folklorist. His mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger, was a music scholar, teacher and classical composer.

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RIP Carleen Hutchins, Genius Violin Maker

Carleen Hutchins, Innovative Violin Maker, Is Dead at 98 - Obituary (Obit) -
In the mid-20th century, when Carleen Hutchins was at the height of her career, it was unusual enough for a woman to make violins. It was even more unusual for a violin maker to conduct hands-on acoustic research, harnessing technology so that modern hands might build instruments to rival the work of 17th- and 18th-century masters.

Mrs. Hutchins started as a high school science teacher before turning to violin production in the late 1940s.

But Mrs. Hutchins did something more unusual still. Working intently and noisily in her home in Montclair, N.J., she helped reimagine the idea of what a violin could be.

In the process she designed and built an entire family of violins, eight instruments proportional in size and pitch known collectively as the new violin family or the violin octet.

The new violin family, its enthusiasts say, not only extends the range of the traditional violin family, but also corrects the acoustic imbalances among its members that have bedeviled composers and players for generations. A consort of acoustically matched instruments, Mrs. Hutchins’s family spans more than seven octaves while maintaining the timbre of a violin throughout.

Mrs. Hutchins died on Friday at 98. The death, at her home in Wolfeboro, N.H., where she had lived recently, was confirmed by her daughter, Cassie Coons.

Internationally known for her work in violin acoustics, Mrs. Hutchins received a Guggenheim Fellowship and was often in the news. The cellist Yo-Yo Ma recorded Bartok’s Viola Concerto using one of Mrs. Hutchins’s alto violins. (The instrument has the register of a viola but is played vertically, like a cello.) The recording, with the Baltimore Symphony, appears on Mr. Ma’s CD “The New York Album” (1994).

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George Steiner on Academia

Tenure in the academy today, the approval of one's professional peers, the assistance and laurels in their giving, are not infrequently symptoms of opportunism and mediocre conventionality. A degree of exclusion, of compelled apartness, may be one of the conditions of valid work. Scientific research and advance are in substantial measure and logic collaborative. In the humanities, in the disciplines of intuitive discourse, committees, colloquia, the conference circuit are the bane. Nothing is more ludicrous than the roll-call of academic colleagues and sponsors set out in grateful footnotes at the bottom of trivia. In poetics, in philosophy, in hermeneutics, work worth doing will more often than not be produced against the grain and in marginality.

--George Steiner, AFTER BABEL, "Preface to the Second Edition, ix"

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FBI Raids Police Offices in New Orleans: Katrina Killings In Question

Raw Story » FBI raids NOLA police over Katrina killings
Nearly four years after the police shootout that took the lives of Ronald Madison and James Brissette on New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge, the FBI raided the offices of the police investigators who had been looking into the deadly incident.

The bureau’s move suggests that the federal government may be serious about seeing police officers prosecuted over the Sept. 4, 2005 shootout, when Madison and Brissette were allegedly killed by police and four others wounded as they crossed a bridge in the midst of the Hurricane Katrina crisis.

It also suggests the FBI may be worried that New Orleans police are trying — or may in the future try — to destroy evidence of what happened that day.

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Caricature from BibliOdyssey

Published by Maison Aubert in 1834 [Print made by JJ Grandville AND Honoré Daumier; printed by Bernard]

Satire on censorship; on the right a woman personifying France and Liberty is holding a torch upon which is inscribed with the word 'presse'; from an arched opening seven political figures, including D'Argout, Persil and Soult, are trying to put the torch out; above, a bat with a human head.

In the lower left corner of the lithograph, the initials of both Daumier and Grandville can be seen, making this illustration a particularly rare collaborative work by two of the greatest French illustrators of the 19th (or any) century. It's the equivalent of Gillray and Cruikshank combining forces.

The notes are derived from the British Museum database but the image -- a much brighter, larger and more legible version, that appears to be identical, including plate no., to the BM print -- was sourced from Centre de Recherche du Château de Versailles.

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Science for Dogs: How Smart is Your Poodle

SciGuy: Dogs are about as smart as a 2-year-old, scientist says
Eric Berger reports:

Dogs are about as smart as a 2-year-old, scientist says

During a lecture this weekend at the American Psychological Association dog psychologist Stanley Coren will speak about how dogs think. . . .

According to Coren, the five most intelligent dog breeds are:

1. Border Collie
2. Poodle
3. German Shepherd
4. Golden Retriever
5. Doberman Pinscher

And the least intelligent five are:

106. Borzoi
107. Chow Chow
108. Bull dog
109. Basenji
110. Afghan Hound

Based upon various behavioral measures Coren says dogs have the mental ability of a human child age 2 to 2.5 years. Maybe. My 2-year, 2-month-old kid can have a conversation on the phone with her grandparents. Not sure my dog can.

Anyway, the average dog can apparently learn about 165 words and signals, while the smartest dogs can probably learn up to about 250 words. They can also count to four or five.

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Somalia: Mortar Fire Kills Eight in Mogadishu

Al Jazeera English - Africa - Sporadic clashes rock Mogadishu
At least eight people have killed and 17 others injured in the Somali capital after the al-Shabab anti-government fighter group fired mortars at the airport and presidential palace.

The attack on Saturday prompted a response from African peacekeepers.

The assault took place as Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the Somali president, arrived from the Kenyan capital Nairobi after a meeting with Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, police said.

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Salome,by František Drtikol--or, A Metaphor for Birthdays

Salome,by František Drtikol

adski_kafeteri: Super Vintage

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Taking the Long View: Pinhole Photo Exposed for 6 Months

Six-Month-Long Camera Exposure Shows Both Winter and Summer Solstices - pinhole photography - Gizmodo

Gizmodo writes:

Justin Quinnell left his homemade pinhole camera continuously exposed for a whopping six months to capture this incredible photo of Saint Mary Redcliffe Church in the UK.

Those individual lines are images of the sun trailing across the sky: The lowest one is the winter solstice, captured on December 22nd, and the highest one is the summer solstice, which took place on June 20th. Quinnell, a professional pinhole photographer (he consulted and shot The Brothers Bloom as well) has done this kind of very long-term exposure before, including another six-month shot of his hometown of Bristol, but it's not the easiest project to undertake:

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Art or Threat? Or Sleeping Giant on our Doorstep? Freedom of Speech Watch

Does This Kid Deserve 2 Years for Rap Lyrics? - Page 1 - The Daily Beast
Anita Allen writes:

Soon after Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates was arrested after mouthing off to the police, charges of disorderly conduct against the feisty African-American professor were dropped like a hot potato in a firestorm of racial controversy. But consider the fate another African-American signifier who mouthed off to the police—this one, a hot-headed 20-year-old who, two weeks ago, was handed a two-year prison sentence for some rap lyrics he wrote when he was a teenager.

For all the protection afforded by the First Amendment, the constitution doesn’t protect dangerous and offensive speech absolutely.

Antavio Johnson wrote “Kill Me a Cop,” a rap song threatening to murder two police officers he said had harassed him. The song announced: “Im'ma kill me a cop one day.” It called out two specific officers—one male, one female—by name, both of the Lakeland, Florida Police Department, both of whom would be shot with a “Glock” in the “dome” if they ever “get my timing wrong.”

A couple years later, Lakeland detectives researching gang life on the internet found Johnson’s song on a MySpace page belonging to an entity called Hood Certified Entertainment. Already in jail for violating probation on a cocaine conviction, the now 20-year-old Johnson was convicted on two counts of a weirdly titled crime he had probably never heard of: “corruption by threat of public servant.”

Section 838.021of the Florida Statutes makes it a third-degree felony to harm or threaten to harm public servants, their families or the people they care about. The statute, which is designed to deter corruption and punish extortion, requires that threats be made "with the intent or purpose" to influence public servants' performance of their official responsibilities. In a 2007 case a disorderly man was prosecuted under the statute for repeatedly asking to see the badges of undercover officers, but acquitted. In a 2008 case, another disorderly Florida man was prosecuted and acquitted under the statute, this one a DUI arrestee in handcuffs who threatened to slit the arresting officer's throat and beat his "ass" if the officer were to free him. The court concluded that the man's threats lacked the requisite intent to influence the officer. Merely threatening the life of an officer, even to his face, is not enough for conviction.

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Photography: Zoriah Does Cuba

Book Review: Oscar Wilde's Reading List

Book Review - 'Built of Books - How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde,' by Thomas Wright - Review -
Michael Shae writes:

How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde
By Thomas Wright

Oscar Wilde’s library was dispersed on April 24, 1895, while he was in prison awaiting trial on charges of sodomy and gross indecency. It was sold for nearly nothing, in carelessly assembled lots, and mostly snapped up by dealers at a raucous auction held to pay his creditors, primarily the Marquess of Queensberry, who was awarded £600 in court costs after Wilde had disastrously and unsuccessfully sued him for libel. It is only partially possible to reconstruct the contents of Wilde’s collection of some 2,000 books, through the incomplete auction catalog, booksellers’ receipts, lists of titles he had requested in prison, and references in his letters and writings. A few of the books were bought by his friends in secondhand shops and restored to him, but only around 50 are known to survive.

So the persistent researcher may still track down at least a few of Wilde’s own annotations and doodlings and wine stains and broken spines, parsing them for whatever they may reveal. Thomas Wright goes further in“Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde.” His decision to write what is billed as “an entirely new kind of biography,” based on Wilde’s reading, began in a moment of imitatio Oscari. Wright explains that he was so bedazzled at 16 by “The Picture of Dorian Gray” that he resolved to make up the deficiencies of his education by reading everything Wilde had read. He admits that he hoped to find in Wilde not just a Virgilian guide to the world of ideas, but “a sort of Socratic mentor, who would help me give birth to a new self.”

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