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Monday, April 30, 2012

A cursory listen puts this one in the alt-country-with-an-attitude box

Lydia Loveless


Just 21, Loveless sings from a deep reserve of heart, soul, and older-than-her-years affliction. A cursory listen puts this one in the alt-country-with-an-attitude box (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but closer inspection reveals a gratifying depth to both her singer and songwriter sides.
To begin with there’s her voice, a potent combination of anger and sadness; she navigates the pain-filled lyrics (“Why does it take so much out of me/To be this weak?”) teetering between control and breakdown. You can hear it in the tiniest moments, like the way she sings the word “I” in the phrase “when I’m usually wrong” (0:21)—there’s a lot of emotion buried in that condensed flutter that aches out and is quickly reeled back in. Or, the way she chokes out the word “someday” at the beginning of the the chorus the second time through (1:50). Reinforcing the impression that she probably never sings the same word the same way twice is a song that offers subtle changes throughout its development. We don’t hear the signature guitar riff until 1:10, and when the verses return after the chorus, the melody has been subtly changed, which you can hear most clearly at the pause that appears at 1:27—a nice moment that has no equivalent point when the verses were initially presented.
Loveless, raised in rural Ohio, has a complicated back story, but the upshot is she has been playing professionally since she was 13 and quickly fell into habits and behaviors not necessarily associated with the middle-school-aged, to put it delicately. After being in the new-wavey band Carson Drew with her sisters and her father, Loveless released her first solo album in 2010. “Learn To Say No” is from album number two, Indestructible Machine, which has been out onBloodshot Records since September. The song has been floating around the internet since at least December but it just came to my attention last week, thanks to Largehearted Boy. MP3 via Bloodshot Records, and there’s one more free and legal MP3 from the album available via therecord company. Note that the label also sells a beverage cooler/holder that says “DRINK MORE. LOVE LESS,” which has a certain pugnacious charm about it.

“They said the photograph suggested we condoned bestiality, which was an arrestable offence”

A Fool for Love: Derrick Santini’s take on the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan

Derrick Santini

'Mythical' swan photo taken down after 'bestiality' fears

A photograph of a naked woman and a swan was taken down after a police officer complained that it appeared to “condone bestiality”, an art gallery has claimed.

Leda and the Swan
A 16th Century version of Leda and the Swan. The myth was explored by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and yeates, among others Photo: REX
The Scream gallery in Mayfair had exhibited the artwork for a month with no complaints from the public. The work is intended as modern depiction of the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan.
But a Metropolitan police officer who saw the Derrick Santini image from a bus was alarmed.
He alerted his colleagues and two uniformed officers went to the gallery, which is owned by the Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood’s sons, Tyrone and Jamie.
Jag Mehta, the sales director at the gallery, said she spoke to the officers and asked what the problem was.
“They said the photograph suggested we condoned bestiality, which was an arrestable offence,” she said.
“It’s crazy. Perhaps the cultural references were lost on them.”
As the exhibition was already over, they took down the artwork, which shows the animal ravaging the naked woman.
“They stood there and didn’t leave until we took the piece down.”
Jamie Wood said the work, entitled A Fool for Love, was not meant deliberately to shock or offend. It was due to be taken down anyway to be replaced by another installation.
He added: “We would of course have fought to keep the piece up otherwise. If anyone wants to view it, we still have it at the gallery.
“The purpose of art is to provoke debate and Derrick’s piece has certainly done that.”
According to Greek mythology, the god Zeus took the form of a swan to seduce or rape Leda. She was later said to bear his children, Polydeuces and Helen of Troy.
Some versions of the story suggest they were formed in eggs.
Miss Mehta said the myth of Leda’s rape by Zeus was an acceptable form of erotica in Victorian times. However, this argument failed to impress the police.
“They said they didn’t know anything about the myth,” she said. “They asked if we had had any complaints and we said quite the contrary. Lots of people were intrigued by it.”
The photographer grew up in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, and is well known for his work with musicians and fashion models. His art has been displayed in London, Istanbul and New York.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said the incident had not been recorded as a crime.

he has always been an artist who follows his instincts, whatever the costs.

Girl Dancing in Brooklyn, 1955
William Klein

Painted contact by William Klein, courtesy of 51 Gallery, Antwerp:

William Klein: 'I was an outsider, following my instincts'

The great photographer, film-maker and iconoclast reflects on a life spent in pursuit of his personal vision
William Klein: 'I had no real respect for good technique because I didn't know what it was.' Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features
'People were terrified of him, as though it was the lion's den," the Voguemodel, Dorothy McGowan, said of working with William Klein back in the 60s. At 84, Klein has mellowed somewhat, though he still tells it like it is. "People ask me why I never went back home to America," he says, when I meet him in his apartment overlooking the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. "Have you seen those crazy right-wing assholes who want to be president? The place is so reactionary it just makes me angry. If I lived there, you wouldn't be interviewing me, I'd be dead from a heart attack by now."
Wearing patched, faded denim jeans and a baggy jumper, his mane of white hair thinner now, Klein moves slowly and unsteadily around his spacious but cluttered living room, still stiff from a recent knee operation. His eyes are bright and mischievous, though, and there are glimpses of the confident-to-the-point-of-arrogant young man who ranks as one of the great iconoclasts of postwar American photography. "I'm an outsider, I guess," he says of his groundbreaking early work. "I wasn't part of any movement. I was working alone, following my instinct. I had no real respect for good technique because I didn't know what it was. I was self-taught, so that stuff didn't matter to me."
Having fallen in and out of fashion with galleries over the years, Klein is finally having a moment. Last week, he was given the outstanding contribution to photography award at the 2012 Sony World Photography Awards – work by award winners, including Klein, is on show at Somerset House. In October, Tate Modern will devote a big retrospective show to Klein and the Japanese photographer, Daido Moriyama, exploring the often similar ways in which they each depicted New York and Tokyo. "I think it's kind of stupid," he says, shrugging, when I mention how intriguing the show sounds, "but a lot of things happen without me really being involved. There's a connection all right, but…" He trails off and shrugs some more. One senses that he would have preferred a big London show all to himself, but does not have the energy to kick up the kind of fuss about it that his younger self would have done.
Klein burst on to the photography scene in the early 60s with a series of books about cities – New York, Rome, Moscow and Tokyo – filled with raw, grainy, black-and-white photographs that caught the energy and movement of modern urban life with scant regard for traditional composition. The first, Life Is Good & Good For You in New York (1956), once it got published, earned him the opprobrium of both critics and other photographers alike. "They just didn't get it," he says. "They thought it should not have been published, that it was vulgar and somehow sinned against the great sacred tradition of the photography book. They were annoyed for sure."
The book has long since been recognised as a classic that, alongside Robert Frank's The Americans, broke with the tradition of brilliant but understated observation, as exemplified by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Then, in 1965, just as suddenly as he had picked up his stills camera, Klein discarded it to become a film-maker, making fictional satires of the fashion industry (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?) and the America right (Mr Freedom) and documentaries on the likes of Muhammad Ali and Little Richard. He did not return to photography until the early 80s. "I thought I had done what I could with it. I wanted a new challenge and film was certainly that, mainly because they never gave me big budgets." He shakes his head as if still baffled by the very notion. "I guess I wasn't really Hollywood material," he says finally, grinning his mischievous big grin.
Instead, he has always been an artist who follows his instincts, whatever the costs. Apart from a stint in New York from the mid-50s to the mid-60s, Klein has lived in Paris since 1948, when, having served in the US army in Germany and France, he received an ex-serviceman's grant to study art at the Sorbonne. On his first day in the city, the Red Cross gave him a bicycle and a map. As he was cycling around, "trying to find all these places I'd read about in books", he saw a woman who literally stopped him in his tracks. "She was the most beautiful girl I ever saw," he says, his eyes lighting up, "I just had to go over and chat her up. She was all smiles, so I asked her out." She said yes, and they were together for more than 50 years. His wife, Jeanne Florin, died in 2005. "Everything I did, I did for her," he told a recent interviewer.
Despite his street-tough exterior, a residue of childhood as a Jewish boy marooned in a tough Irish neighbourhood in Brooklyn, he is, at heart, a romantic, something his long self-exile has deepened. At the Sorbonne, one of his tutors was Fernand L├ęger, a mischief maker who was at war with the bourgeois values of the university. "He told us not to worry about galleries and collectors, but to go out onto the city streets and paint murals." It was while photographing some interior murals he had made on movable panels – "big hard-edged geometrical paintings" – that Klein had the epiphany that made him a photographer.
"Somebody turned one of the panels when I was shooting on a long exposure, and when I developed the photographs this already abstract shape was a beautiful blur. That blur was a revelation. I thought, here's a way of talking about life. Through photography, you can really talk about what you see around you. That's what I've been doing ever since."
Klein's big commercial break came when Alexander Liberman, the legendary art director of Vogue, saw a small exhibition of his early abstract photographs in 1955 and offered him a job. "Those guys spotted raw talent and encouraged it. They were all Russian Jews in exile: Liberman at VogueAlexey Brodovitch at Harper's Bazaar. They had a knowledge of avant garde art and design that the Americans didn't have."
Klein returned to New York and worked for Vogue for 10 years as a fashion photographer, shooting models in the hustle and bustle of the New York streets. It was the first glimpse of his iconoclastic style, photographs full of blur, movement and grainy high contrast. He used long-focus and wide-angle lenses as well as flash, less interested in the clothes than the atmosphere. "They were probably the most unpopular fashion photographs Vogue ever published," he says proudly.
Sensing his restlessness, Liberman offered to finance a bigger, more ambitious project. Klein told him that he wanted to shoot New York in a radical new way, maybe even try to make a kind of impressionistic diary of his wanderings on the streets. Vogue financed the project and provided him with a dark room and a budget for materials. The New York book grew out of this experiment. Klein was, he said later, "in search of the rawest snapshot, the zero degree of photography". He also described himself as "a make-believe ethnographer, treating New Yorkers like an explorer would treat Zulus".
Given his approach, was he surprised that people were shocked by Life is Good & Good For You in New York, which was first published in France in 1956? "Not really. I was showing what they didn't want to see. I was reacting against this romantic idea of New York – the Big Apple and all that. See, for me, New York was like a big shithouse." I look surprised and he grins widely. "Of course, New Yorkers think it's the centre of the earth. My father was like that. He used to go on about how it was the greatest city on earth, the land of opportunity, even though he had a lousy job and never really made it. [His father's clothing business went bust in the financial crash of 1928.] He was like the guy in Death of a Salesman, but all he could talk about was the land of opportunity. I didn't buy that crap."
Klein's New York book did not find an American publisher for several decades. Between 1960 and 1964, he published three others, Rome,Moscow and Tokyo. Then, bored and restless once more, he started to make films.
Klein had worked as an assistant on Federico Fellini's Nights of Cabiriain 1956 – "I just called his hotel and said, 'I want to speak to Mr Fellini' and they put me through" – and as artistic consultant on Louis Malle'sZazie dans le Metro in 1960. Inspired by the French new wave and the films of Chris Marker, he set about biting the hand that had fed him, making Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, a wacky satire on the fashion industry. It starred his favourite model, Dorothy McGowan. "She was a tough little Irish girl from Brooklyn. Learned French and then learned her lines. She was like Alice in Wonderland in Paris, they loved her, but she wanted Hollywood." What happened to her, I ask. "She got married to a prick," he says, grimacing.
He went on to make some great documentaries, including Muhammad Ali: the Greatest (1969), Eldridge Cleaver: Black Panther (1970) and The Little Richard Story (1980). Was he, I ask, a radical? "I was left wing, for sure." he says "But I had no agenda with the films. I took it as it came. I was drawn to great characters and those guys fitted the bill, though Little Richard was a little bit different."
I put it to him that the film should really have been called In Search of Little Richard.
"Yeah, he disappeared on us. He was crazy like that. We organised a Little Richard day in his home town, Macon, Georgia, and he didn't show up." Did you fall out? "No. I got on well with him, but he was managed by these white hustlers who were like a mafia. They wanted him to endorse a bible for black people. They said: 'We're gonna organise your big comeback, but no crazy hairdos and no wild costumes.' The thing is, without that stuff, there was no Little Richard. He knew that, so he just disappeared. It was a crazy scene, but I had fun." This, you suspect, is the real story of William Klein's life: work as fun, with a little bit of confrontation thrown in.
He returned to photography in the 80s, when he was finally recognised as a pioneer – his early books influencing generations of photographers in Europe, America and especially Japan. He has since been garlanded with awards, and is also recognised as an iconoclast of graphic design, mainly through the use of the bold red and black swipes of paint he often applied to his enlarged contact sheets. Alongside his Tate Modern show in October, his London gallery, HackelBury, will host an exhibition of his art, William Klein: Paintings Etc. "It's a lot of stuff that no one has seen before," he says. "So, who knows, I might surprise people all over again."

With descriptive camera, a picture is worth a dozen or so words

Descriptive Camera, 2012

Descriptive Camera

created by Matt Richardson

The Descriptive Camera works a lot like a regular camera—point it at subject and press the shutter button to capture the scene. However, instead of producing an image, this prototype outputs a text description of the scene. Modern digital cameras capture gobs of parsable metadata about photos such as the camera's settings, the location of the photo, the date, and time, but they don't output any information about the content of the photo. The Descriptive Cameraonly outputs the metadata about the content.
As we amass an incredible amount of photos, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage our collections. Imagine if descriptive metadata about each photo could be appended to the image on the fly—information about who is in each photo, what they're doing, and their environment could become incredibly useful in being able to search, filter, and cross-reference our photo collections. Of course, we don't yet have the technology that makes this a practical proposition, but the Descriptive Camera explores these possibilities.


Descriptive Camera in development
The technology at the core of the Descriptive Camera is Amazon's Mechanical Turk API. It allows a developer to submit Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) for workers on the internet to complete. The developer sets the guidelines for each task and designs the interface for the worker to submit their results. The developer also sets the price they're willing to pay for the successful completion of each task. An approval and reputation system ensures that workers are incented to deliver acceptable results. For faster and cheaper results, the camera can also be put into "accomplice mode," where it will send an instant message to any other person. That IM will contain a link to the picture and a form where they can input the description of the image.
The camera itself is powered by the BeagleBone, an embedded Linux platform from Texas Instruments. Attached to the BeagleBone is a USB webcam, a thermal printer from Adafruit, a trio of status LEDs and a shutter button. A series of Python scripts define the interface and bring together all the different parts from capture, processing, error handling, and the printed output. My mrBBIO module is used for GPIO control (the LEDs and the shutter button), and I used open-source command line utilities to communicate with Mechanical Turk. The device connects to the internet via ethernet and gets power from an external 5 volt source, but I would love to make a another version that's battery operated and uses wireless data. Ideally, The Descriptive Camera would look and feel like a typical digital camera.


Prints from the Descriptive Camera
After the shutter button is pressed, the photo is sent to Mechanical Turk for processing and the camera waits for the results. A yellow LED indicates that the results are still "developing" in a nod to film-based photo technology. With a HIT price of $1.25, results are returned typically within 6 minutes and sometimes as fast as 3 minutes. The thermal printer outputs the resulting text in the style of a polaroid print. Below are a few samples from the Descriptive Camera:
This is a faded picture of a dilapidated building. It seems to be run down and in the need of repirs.

 | |                             | |
 | |                             | |
 | |   This is a faded picture   | |
 | |      of a dilapidated       | |
 | |  building. It seems to be   | |
 | | run down and in the need of | |
 | |           repirs.           | |
 | |                             | |
 | |                             | |
 | ------------------------------- |
 |                                 |
 |                                 |
Looks like a cupboard which is ugly and old having name plates on it with a study lamp attached to it.

 | |                             | |
 | |                             | |
 | |    Looks like a cupboard    | |
 | |    which is ugly and old    | |
 | |  having name plates on it   | |
 | |      with a study lamp      | |
 | |       attached to it.       | |
 | |                             | |
 | |                             | |
 | ------------------------------- |
 |                                 |
 |                                 |
Corner of a wood floored room with a tool chest, bike, stack of books, box leaning against the wall, an open door with a bag hanging off the doorknob, and a pair of closed double doors with cables hanging on the handles.

 | |  Corner of a wood floored   | |
 | |   room with a tool chest,   | |
 | |  bike, stack of books, box  | |
 | |  leaning against the wall,  | |
 | |   an open door with a bag   | |
 | |  hanging off the doorknob,  | |
 | |     and a pair of closed    | |
 | |  double doors with cables   | |
 | |   hanging on the handles.   | |
 | ------------------------------- |
 |                                 |
 |                                 |


  • Philip Heron's fswebcam was the easiest way I found to capture images from a USB webcam on the BeagleBone
  • Without Dan Watts' writeup on how to get UART serial working on BeagleBone using Python, I would've found it very difficult to get the printer working.
  • Nuno Alves wrote an indispensable tutorial which helped me set my code up to run as a system service when the BeagleBone boots.
  • Dan O'Sullivan and my fellow students in Computational Cameras, who provided much-needed conceptual feedback for the project.

Who Hung the Monkey?

During the Napoleonic Wars (circa 1789 to 1815) in which the British, Russians, Spanish, Prussians, Sardinians etc (the good guys) defeated the French, the Dutch, the Americans, etc (the bad guys) and prevented Napoleon Bonaparte, or "Boney" as the British called him (British children used to play a game called "Catch Boney"), from taking over and ruling Britain and Europe, the inhabitants of the town of Hartlepool on the eastern coast of Britain found a monkey on a beach in the early 1800s. Having never seen a Frenchman, or a monkey, before the people of the town put it on trial and then hanged it, accusing it of being a French spy.

Hartlepudlians, as the inhabitants of Hartlepool are called, still fondly remember these events, and there is even a statue of a monkey in the town. Darlington football team is the greatest rival of Hartlepool football team and the Darlington fans call the Hartlepool team "Monkey Hangers." The rugby team is also called the "Monkeyhangers"....

Who Hung the Monkey?

"The Lord Mayor of Hartlepool was walking on the shore
When he came upon a funny sight he'd never seen before
He came upon a little chap a-walking in the sand
Holding a banana in his tiny hairy hand"


It's a wild December day and a throng of fishermen and their wives, braving the cold wind, stand gossiping on the Fish Sands (a small strip of rocky beach nestling in Hartlepool harbour below the Town Wall). The cobles (a kind of boat only found on the north east coast of England and still used as a fishing boat today), the large rugged boats the men prefer to use on their fishing excursions, lie hauled up on the beach where they have lain all day. Weather like this, that can break a French warship in two, is no weather for fishing.

In and amongst the grown-ups, excited children, full of the dramatic events of the day, chase each other, playing at "Catch Boney". To these children it's all a game, and Boney just a figure of fun. But to the crofter fisherfolk of Hartlepool it means much more. Even here in the far north of England they have heard of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the invasion which must surely come soon. Not many this day have been sorry to see the --founder and go down with all hands.

But not all hands were lost in the wreck of the French ship, and legend tells of how a monkey, a sailor's pet no doubt, was washed up on the Fish Sands to the amazement of the Hartlepudlians gathered there.

The people of Hartlepool hang the monkey, accusing it of being a French spy, circa 1800-1815

The legend also tells of how the crofters, never having seen either a monkey or a Frenchman before, took the poor creature for a spy. They interrogated it, but could make no sense of the replies it gave; obviously not, since it must be speaking French. But the people of Hartlepool are decent folk - they allowed the spy a fair trial, right there on the beach. The accused mounted a poor defence for himself and was duly found guilty of treason. A makeshift scaffold was erected using the mast of a coble.

What happened next was to make this otherwise unremarkable north-eastern town famous around the world. The people of Hartlepool "hung the monkey".

So is it true? Did it really happen like that? You won't find many people in Hartlepool who say it didn't. 

They love the story. Even the local rugby team bears the proud nickname, the Monkeyhangers.

Which is strange, because, for a long, long time after the event, people from neighbouring towns used the tale to mock Hartlepool and its inhabitants, and Hartlepudlians were often on the receiving end of the jibe: "Who hung the monkey?"

Then there are some who point to a much darker interpretation of the yarn. They say that the creature that was hanged might not have been a monkey at all; it could have been a young boy. After all, the term powder-monkey was commonly used in those times for the children employed on warships to prime the cannon with gunpowder. You can decide for yourself whether you want to believe that dark version.

Whatever the truth the story of the Hartlepool monkey is a legend which has endured over two centuries and now enters its third as strong as ever.

In 2002, -- campaigned for the office of Mayor of Hartlepool in the costume of the --'s mascot, '--'. He narrowly won. His election slogan had been "free bananas for schoolchildren", a promise he was unable to keep. Despite this, he stood again three years later and won with a landslide victory.

In former times, when war and strife 
The French invasion threaten'd life 
An' all was armed to the knife 
The Fisherman hung the monkey O ! 
The Fishermen with courage high, 
Siezed on the monkey for a French spy; 
"Hang him !" says one; "he's to die" 
They did and they hung the monkey Oh! 
They tried every means to make him speak 
And tortured the monkey till loud he did speak; 
Says yen "thats french" says another "its Greek" 
For the fishermen had got druncky oh! 

Hammer his ribs, the thunnerin thief
Pummel his pyet wi yor neef!
He's landed here for nobbut grief
He's aud Napoleon's uncky O!
Thus to the Monkey all hands behaved
"Cut off his whiskers!" yen chap raved
Another bawled out "He's never been shaved",
So commenced to scrape the Monkey, O!
They put him on a gridiron hot,
The Monkey then quite lively got,
He rowl'd his eyes tiv a' the lot,
For the Monkey agyen turned funky O!.
Then a Fisherman up te Monkey goes,
Saying "Hang him at yence, an' end his woes,"
But the Monkey flew at him and bit off his nose,
An' that raised the poor man's Monkey O! 

In former times, mid war an' strife,
The French invasion threatened life,
An' all was armed to the knife,
The Fishermen hung the Monkey O!
The Fishermen wi' courage high,
Seized on the Monkey for a spy,
"Hang him" says yen, says another,"He'll die!"
They did, and they hung the Monkey O!. They tortor'd the Monkey till loud he did squeak
Says yen, "That's French," says another "it's Greek"
For the Fishermen had got drunky, O!
"He's all ower hair!" sum chap did cry,
E'en up te summic cute an' sly
Wiv a cod's head then they closed an eye,
Afore they hung the Monkey O!.

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