wednesday | 8 may 2013

BANGLADESH

A FINAL EMBRACE: THE MOST HAUNTING PHOTOGRAPH FROM BANGLADESH

Taslima Akhter | Lightbox | Time

I have been asked many questions about the photograph of the couple embracing in the aftermath of the collapse. I have tried desperately, but have yet to find any clues about them. I don’t know who they are or what their relationship is with each other.

I spent the entire day the building collapsed on the scene, watching as injured garment workers were being rescued from the rubble. I remember the frightened eyes of relatives — I was exhausted both mentally and physically. Around 2 a.m., I found a couple embracing each other in the rubble. The lower parts of their bodies were buried under the concrete. The blood from the eyes of the man ran like a tear. When I saw the couple, I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I knew them — they felt very close to me. I looked at who they were in their last moments as they stood together and tried to save each other — to save their beloved lives.

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WHERE PRIVATE SCHOOL IS NOT A PRIVILEGE

Tina Rosenberg | The New York Times

BRAC has more than 1.25 million children in its schools in Bangladesh and six other countries, and it is expanding.

. . . In 1985, BRAC opened 22 one-room primary schools, admitting children who dropped out of primary school or had reached the starting age limit of 8. BRAC actually spends $20 per student per year. School buildings are rudimentary, with bamboo walls and corrugated tin roofs. All BRAC’s programs rely on workers hired locally at very low salaries, and so this became the way to find teachers as well. BRAC hires a woman from each village to teach, pays her a stipend and gives her two weeks of training before she starts, and ongoing training every month — 140 days in total over 4 years. A supervisor will stop in once or twice a week to watch a lesson and talk to parents in the village, asking if they have any complaints or comments.

. . . BRAC designed its school system to address all the reasons children didn’t attend schools. Teachers are female. The schools aggressively recruit girls, who make up two-thirds of the student body. Ethnic minorities study in their own language for the first few years; disabled children receive free surgery and medical devices. Each village has a school; “the school goes to the children; the children don’t come to the school,” said Safiqul Islam, BRAC’s director of education. The teacher starts first grade with a group of 30 or so children of different ages and stays with the group all the way through primary school, covering the 5-year curriculum in 4 years. The children then go into government secondary schools, and the teacher starts over with a new group.

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ECONOMICS

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THE CHUTZPAH CAUCUS

Paul Krugman | The New York Times

Let’s start with the common claim that stimulus programs never go away.

In the United States, government spending programs designed to boost the economy are in fact rare — F.D.R.’s New Deal and President Obama’s much smaller Recovery Act are the only big examples. And neither program became permanent — in fact, both were scaled back much too soon. F.D.R. cut back sharply in 1937, plunging America back into recession; the Recovery Act had its peak effect in 2010, and has since faded away, a fade that has been a major reason for our slow recovery.

What about programs designed to aid those hurt by a depressed economy? Don’t they become permanent fixtures? Again, no. Unemployment benefits have fluctuated up and down with the business cycle, and as a percentage of G.D.P. they are barely half what they were at their recent peak. Food stamp usage is still rising, thanks to a still-terrible labor market, but historical experience suggests that it too will fall sharply if and when the economy really recovers.

Incidentally, foreign experience follows the same pattern. You often hear Japan described as a country that has pursued never-ending fiscal stimulus. In reality, it has engaged in stop-go policies, increasing spending when the economy is weak, then pulling back at the first sign of recovery (and thereby pushing itself back into recession).

So the whole notion of perma-stimulus is fantasy posing as hardheaded realism. Still, even if you don’t believe that stimulus is forever, Keynesian economics says not just that you should run deficits in bad times, but that you should pay down debt in good times. And it’s silly to imagine that this will happen, right?

Wrong. The key measure you want to look at is the ratio of debt to G.D.P., which measures the government’s fiscal position better than a simple dollar number. And if you look at United States history since World War II, you find that of the 10 presidents who preceded Barack Obama, seven left office with a debt ratio lower than when they came in. Who were the three exceptions? Ronald Reagan and the two George Bushes. So debt increases that didn’t arise either from war or from extraordinary financial crisis are entirely associated with hard-line conservative governments.

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LIFE

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THIS IS WATER

David Foster Wallace | Open Culture

David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Commencement Speech “This is Water” Visualized in New Short Film
. . . He began with a story: two young fish meet an older fish, who asks them “How’s the water?” The younger fish look at each other and say, “What the hell is water?” Foster Wallace explains the story this way:

The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

Foster Wallace acknowledges that the anecdote is a cliché of the genre of commencement speeches. He follows it up by challenging, then re-affirming, another cliché: that the purpose of a liberal arts education is to “teach you how to think.” The whole speech is well worth reading.

In the video below, “This is Water,” The Glossary—“fine purveyors of stimulating videograms”—take an abridged version of the original audio recording and set it to a series of provocative images. In their interpretation, Foster Wallace’s speech takes on the kind of middle-class neurosis of David Fincher’s realization of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club.

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ARCHITECTURE

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JDS UNVEILS DREAMY GREEN ROOFED OFFICE COMPLEX IN INSTANBUL

Kathy Chan | Architizer

JDS Architects’ first project in Istanbul incorporates offices, gardens, plazas, and terraces into a sensuously curving M-shaped structure with a transparent glass facade. “The building is formed by our desire to make it interact with its environment,” explained the architects in a project description. “The volume of the block is literally carved out to invite the surroundings in. The local hilly landscape, characteristic to Istanbul, is continued in the meandering of the volume both in plan, adapting to the site’s edges, and in section, weaving into itself in a series of gentle curving slopes, echoing the nearby Bosphorus waves.”

jds-instanbul

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BOOKS | DRAWING

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AN ARTIST ATTEMPTS TO DRAW ALL THE BUILDINGS IN NEW YORK

Belinda Lanks | Co.Design

allthebuildingsny-coverJohn Gulliver Hancock has an obsession. The artist has taken it upon himself to draw every building in New York, an ambitious goal that he expects will extend “well after I’m dead.”

This isn’t the first time he’s been drawn to an exhaustively obsessive, seemingly impossible project. Previously, he attempted to document all the rooftops in Paris, all the cars in Los Angeles, and all the bikes in Berlin. Australian by birth, Hancock has traveled all around the world, ritualistically recording objects as a means of familiarizing himself with foreign places. The buildings series began when he relocated to Brooklyn in 2009. As he writes in the introduction to his new book, All the Buildings in New York, cataloging has “become an almost ritualistic undertaking, a therapy of sorts, helping me to organize the overwhelming infinity and chaos of New York into something I can know and understand.” And with each new building, he immerses himself deeper into a city that he once saw through a tourist’s eyes as a film set of pop-cultural references.

20 WEST 29TH STREET NEW YORK NY

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PLAYGROUNDS

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10 PLAYGROUNDS THAT MAKE YOU WISH YOU WERE A KID

James Bartolacci | Architizer

For today’s roundup, we’ve found some truly innovative and unusual playgrounds that would cause your inner child to start jumping for joy. From a colorful crocheted alligator, to a surreal, warping jungle gym, to a playground made out of recycled iron drums, these outdoor fun zones will have you wishing you were still 10 years old. But what the heck, go play on them anyway!

brumbley playground - copenhagen
playdome-bristol
woods of net - hakone japan
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DIY PUBLISHING | KICKSTARTER

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SIR BENFRO’S BIG ADVENTURE

Tim Fishlock & Josh Weinstein | Kickstarter | via designboom

A beautiful picture book featuring the world’s foremost explorer and naturalist with big hair, Sir Benfro.
Sir Benfro’s Big Adventure is a 64 page hardback picture book by the creator of Sir Benfro’s Brilliant Balloon (App Store Best of 2012) Tim Fishlock, and the renowned former showrunner of The Simpsons and writer/producer of Futurama Josh Weinstein. All that’s needed now is your support to get it printed.

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TELEVISION

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CRASS ROOTS

Emily Nussbaum | The New Yorker

“This is amazing! It’s like a happy Nuremberg,” a White House aide tells Vice-President Selina Meyer as they rush offstage, having won over another set of voters with Meyer’s pre-baked, if rather surreal, humanizing anecdotes. (“He shook my hand and he said, ‘You don’t remember me—but I am your grandpa.’ ”) Hard to say whether HBO’s “Veep” has changed, or if my mood has simply darkened, but I spent the first few episodes of the show’s second season giggling at its acrid zingers. Some might even come in handy in real-life Washington: “I’m about to enter a national ass-kicking contest. With no legs. And a massive ass.”

. . . This season is so much more effective that it’s practically a master class in how tweaks can transform a series—and in how hard it is to judge a sitcom early on. (Panning a comedy’s first six episodes is like complaining that a newborn has insufficient neck strength.) To put it in the most banal, notes-from-the-network sort of way, in “Veep” ’s first season the stakes were too low.

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LANGUAGE

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UNSPEAKABLENESS: PART ONE THE UNTRANSLATABLE WORDS

Pei-Ying Lin | Untranslatable

Investigation in Emotion Classification

This is the early stage research of the project. In late January, 2012, I emailed around Royal College of Art asking for words describing emotions in languages other than English that are untranslatable into English. Interesting enough, in order to understand the untranslatable words I had to have several correspondence with the person who contributed the word, and through this back-and-forth discussion can I actually get the glimpse of the emotion itself. These explanation of the untranslatable words are often in the format of “it is a kind of (emotion A), close to (emotion B), and somehow between (emotion C) and (emotion D).” This triggers me to map out the emotions based on the classification of emotions provided in Shaver et al. – “Emotion Knowledge – Futher Exploration of a Prototype Approach.” in the book Emotions in Social Psychology by W. Parrott (2001). Which I intented to visualised the untranslatable words as chemical molecules that reacts with the emotion “nodes” to the fact that untranslatable words are often complicated emotions that are the mixture of other translatable emotions.

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DESIGN

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SAUL BASS GOOGLE DOODLE

OBlog | Design Observer

Today, Saul Bass would have turned 93. To celebrate his prolific career, Google commissioned one of the more sublime “Doodles” yet. Designer/director Matt Cruickshank visually references nearly a dozen classic Bass film title sequences and film posters, from Psycho to Spartacus to North by Northwest.


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COLLAGE

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JAMES GALLAGHER: 2012 WORK

James Gallagher | jamesgallagher.net

james gallagher dancing
james gallagher 143
NicotinePatch

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SCULPTURE

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HARMLESS WEAPONS MADE OF PLANTS BY SONIA RETSCH

Christopher Jobson | Colossal

In her Harm Less series artist Sonia Rentsch defuses the powers of modern weaponry by constructing guns, grenades and bullets completely from organic objects. The shape and form of each piece are really convincing, yet I also enjoy the obviousness of each plant chosen to resemble various gun parts. If you’re reminded of Sarah Illenberger’s work, you’ll be happy to know Rentsch has had the opportunity to work with Illenberger in Berlin. Take a deep dive into her extensive portfolio of work over on her website. (via not shaking the grass)

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THE ARTS

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PROFESSIONALLY CLEVER (I DON’T WANT YOUR WAITERS MONEY)

Andrew Heaton | The Freeman

I’m a standup comedian. I’ve written novels for 10 years, and am only now getting something published (coming this summer). So I sympathize with other unknown creative geniuses eating cat food. We’re doing what we love—wasn’t the money supposed to follow? Why should we have to wait tables or convince rich people to marry us? Many artsy types fancy the notion that society has an obligation to support folks like me.

It’s an intriguing thought: I do not wish to wait tables, but I’m okay with taxing waiters to support my novel writing so that I don’t have to wait tables. Because said waiters, thus far, haven’t wanted to buy my books voluntarily.

No doubt the NEA funds some real gems. It also supports some more questionable uses of tax dollars. The most controversial, you may recall, is Piss Christ, . . .

A more elevated use of our money is awarding grants to opera companies or folk dancers. The problem the NEA must tackle is that only rich people like to go to operas, because operas are boring and rarely feature William Shatner or swimsuit models. Folk dancing, likewise, has a humbler consumer base as compared to Pixar movies and Cirque du Soleil. Limited patronage networks can only support a handful of companies, which can afford to hire only a handful of portly singers, spritely dancers, and so forth.

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FILM SHORT

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ODE TO OCTAVIA PART 12 (SPARKLES) . . . THE RECOLLECTIONS OF THE WRAITH

The Black Constellation | Vimeo | via Believer Mag Tumblr

A short film presented by The Black Constellation
Part twelve of thirteen of the Ode to Octavia Series

Presented initially during Moment Magnitude at the Frye Art Museum

Conceived, Written and Directed by Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes

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RACE | BOOKS

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NETWORKS AND BLACK UNEMPLOYMENT

Reihan Salam | National Review

american non-dilemmaNancy DiTomaso of Rutgers argues that one of the sources of persistently high black unemployment is the fact that African Americans tend not to be part of the most privileged social networks. As most of us who have navigated a private sector job search understand, jobs are often only publicly-listed after a more informal search. Large firms will begin a search by evaluating internal candidates, and trusted employees will be asked to identify potential candidates from within their professional networks. Having well-situated relatives and friends is thus highly advantageous, as it gives you access to opportunities that you’d never know of otherwise. And so, according to DiTomaso, racial inequality is in a sense driven by inclusion (whether you belong to the right networks) rather than exclusion (an institutional determination to deny opportunities to members of a given group). But the upshot is the same. DiTomaso has just published a book, The American Non-Dilemma, on how “opportunity hoarding” among members of the most privileged racial groups can yield racial inequality in the absence of racism, which I look forward to reading.

. . . In Still the Promised City?, sociologist Roger Waldinger observed that during the early 1970s era of “white flight,” new immigrants, from the Caribbean rim and Central America, etc., tended to sort into private sector employment, like low-end manufacturing, while African Americans gravitated to the civil service. Yet because the private sector was more permeable to informal social networks — a valued immigrant employee would be encouraged to recommend friends, who tended to be coethnics — than the civil service, which hires via highly bureaucratic procedures, different patterns of the transmission of capital and skills emerged. Uplift for an individual African American climbing through the ranks of the civil service didn’t necessarily mean uplift for her wider network, while uplift for an immigrant in a position to recommend other members of her network was a more collective experience. Granted, it is also true that learning how to navigate the civil service hiring process is a skill that can be transmitted within a network, but the basic point is well taken.

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SPORTS

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WHAT LEBRON JAMES KNOWS ABOUT ANAYLYTICS, YOU SHOULD TOO

Michael Shrage | Harvard Business Review

The most useful question I’ve learned to ask people about analytics is, “What do you plan to do with them?” By far the most interesting answer I’ve gotten comes from basketball superstar LeBron James: Hire Hakeem Olajuwon.

Until his championship 2011-2012 season, NBA cognoscenti viewed James as a phenomenally gifted loser. He could do everything but win when it mattered most. No one doubted his desire or ability, but they demonstrably weren’t enough. You don’t have to care about sports to realize that exceptional talent, dedication, discipline, teamwork, and hard work assure neither improvement nor victory. You also need self-awareness and smarts.

No, you can’t hire Hakeem Olajuwon. But you can look at “The Evolution of King James.” [previously featured in The Marcus Reader]

Kirk Goldsberry brilliantly describes the open secret to James’ success: Nothing makes serious competitors more open to analytics than losing. A basketball genius frustrated with his professional failings decided he wasn’t as good or as smart as he needed to be. James took a good hard look at the analytics (which Goldsberry brilliantly and visually illustrates) and an even better and harder look at himself. Then he hired retired NBA legend Olajuwon — the only player in NBA history to win the MVP, Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season — to help remedy the analytically undeniable flaws and shortcomings of his game. He explicitly linked analytics to his personal/professional transformation.

“I wanted to get better,” James said of his decision to work with Olajuwon. “I wanted to improve and I sought out someone who I thought was one of the greatest low-post players to ever play this game. I was grateful and happy that he welcomed me with open arms; I was able to go down to Houston for four and a half days; I worked out twice a day; he taught me a lot about the low post and being able to gain an advantage on your opponent. I used that the rest of the off-season, when I went back to my hometown. Every day in the gym I worked on one thing or I worked on two things and tried to improve each and every day.”

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MUSIC

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5O YEARS AGO TODAY | HORACE SILVER QUINTET: SILVER’S SERENADE

Samuel Chell | All About Jazz

What’s with the producers at Blue Note/EMI? Or is it engineer Rudy Van Gelder who decides what gets reissued? Silver’s Serenade is vintage, nicely representative music by the pianist-composer’s best known ensemble, but it was never out of print. By contrast, one of the few Silver sessions for which the term “inspired” might apply—Further Explorations by the Horace Silver Quintet (1958)—languishes in the archives, currently available only as a pricey Japanese import.

Recorded in 1963, Silver’s Serenade was the last complete recording by a cast of players first assembled in 1959. It’s hard to argue against the leader’s choice of personnel—selected as much to execute the composer’s tight ensemble passages with accessible directness and clarity as to lay down economical, groove-tight solos.

The title tune, a loping, laid-back two-beat enticer that sits on whole notes like a serenade should, is another immediate attention-grabber by the gifted songwriter. Blue Mitchell’s trumpet solo sustains the song’s silky seductive allure before Junior Cook’s turn on tenor leaves just enough space between phrases to set the stage for the leader’s somewhat disjointed collection of funky riffs and catchy quotes, along with the trademark left-hand “bombs,” or low-register chord clusters, which the pianist employs like a second bass drum.

horace silver - silvers serenade

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