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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Searching for Africa's living dinosaur

Searching for Africa's living dinosaur:

 Storage Picture-2-Baby

For hundreds of years, Westerners have heard tales from pygmies living in the Congo river basin of a living dinosaur called the Mokèlé-mbèmbé, the "one who stops the flow of rivers." The BBC World Service talks to several explorers on the search for this beast that apparently may resemble a sauropod, elephant, rhinoceros, or perhaps something more akin to a "spirit" than a real animal. From BBC News (image from, er, Baby):

Paul Ohlin, a community development worker who spent more than 10 years living with the Bayaka in Congo and the Central African Republic, just to the north, says the people who live in the area are in no doubt about the creature's existence.

"When people are sitting around the campfire talking, they talk about the Mokele-mbembe - it's something that's a reality in everyday life," he says.

At the same time he emphasizes their "spiritual connection" and "mystical relationship" with it.

"The way they see the world is a little different to the way you and I see it," says Paul.

But their eyewitness reports still need to be taken seriously, in his view.

"The hunt for Mokele-mbembe: Congo's Loch Ness Monster" (via The Anomalist)

Why we shouldn't let Google (or anyone else) claim their private services are public spaces

Why we shouldn't let Google (or anyone else) claim their private services are public spaces:

Photo: Shutterstock.

At Google+, Tom Anderson argues that Google's "don't be offensive" policy is good precisely because Google+ is a public space.

On the contrary, it's the insistence that Plus is a public space that makes such policies troublesome, rather than mere quality control.

Conduct rules are, by and large, a good thing for any private venue that wants to avoid turning into a cesspool. They're desirable in all sorts of other private contexts, too; a good example is a newspaper that doesn't want to publish every deranged Letter to the Editor that comes in, or a quiet restaurant that needs to turf out an abusive patron. Guests in your home can't demand the right to say anything they like in your lounge.

Likewise, deleting offensive content would be just fine if Google stopped marketing Plus as a public venue where you (rather than Google) can express your "real life" personal identity.

No-one—not MG Siegler (whose naughty avatar precipitated this mini-fuss) or anyone else—has the right to be published by Google. So everything Tom says about social networks applying policies is just fine—so long as they don't claim to be public spaces.

By doing this, Google's encouraging a kind of double-think. It's private in all the respects that serve Google's business interests and protect it from liability and risk, but public in all the respects that make us want to use it. But in trying to have its cake and eat it, Google ends up staking an implicit claim to quality-control over what people think is public speech.

It's telling that Tom offers shoppings malls as an example of a "public" place similar to Google+. In fact, almost all malls are entirely private settings, which is why they have the right to boot out people wearing offensive shirts. Just because lots of people are somewhere, that does not make it public.

Google might not be evil, but there are plenty of evil people who stand to benefit from the blurring of public and private life; and who'd love to take advantage of the systems it's building to maintain a close eye on all of it.

Does it really need to be explained why all this is bad? The courts have spent centuries determining reasonable limits of free speech in public settings: we don't need private corporations absorbing the public sphere, providing governments and themselves easy mechanisms to marginalize anyone unwilling or unable to play nice inside the walled gardens.

The U.S. Constitution defines a right to free speech for many reasons, not least because it's never just about the proverbial middle finger. The rationale of public decency and safety can be extended to silence critics, as well as coax decency out of scandalous, unshaven thugs like MG Siegler.

Don't let private companies represent themselves as public spaces. 'Cause they ain't.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


[Awesome job or awesomest job? From DJ/Rupture. -egg]

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cildo morales zero dollar low

Are you sharp-minded with catholic tastes? Un(der)employed? Adderal-addled and wanting a plurilinguistic change? Talk to me.

I'm starting a project studio called LOW INCOME TOMORROWLAND and am looking for a studio assistant. Think: deep research. Think: Sufi Plug Ins. Think: there's no way the future will be boring.

Details here.

Monday, December 26, 2011




"A YouTube video of a chainsmoking Indonesian toddler inspired me to create this series, “Smoking Kids”. The video highlighted the cultural differences between the east and west, and questioned notions of smoking being a mainly adult activity. Adult smokers are the societal norm, so I wanted to isolate the viewer’s focus upon the issue of smoking itself. I felt that children smoking would have a surreal impact upon the viewer and compel them to truly see the acts of smoking rather than making assumptions about the person doing the act. Coincidentally around the time of the “Smoking Kids” gallery opening, a law was passed, and smoking has been banned from Belgian bars. There was an outcry from the public about government intervention, feelings that freedom was being oppressed, and that adults were being treated like children. With health reasons driving many cities to ban smoking, the culture around smoking has a retro feel, like the time period of “Mad Men,” when smoking on a plane or in a restaurant was not unusual. The aesthetics of smoke and the particular way smokers gesticulate with their hands and posture cannot be denied, but among the different tribes of “Smoking Kids,” – Glamour, Jazz, and The Marginal – there is a nod to less attractive aspects, on the line between the beauty and ugliness of smoking. To assure you of the safety of the children, there were no real cigarettes on set. Instead, chalk and sticks of cheese were the prop stand ins, while candles and incense provided the wisps of smoke."


Dead Sea Salt Formations

Dead Sea Salt Formations:

The Dead Sea's salinity of 33.7 percent makes it 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. Bordering Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, it is 423m below sea level, making it the lowest place on land on Earth. A tourist hotspot for millennia, more than 1m visitors a year visit on the Israeli & Palestinian side alone. The view from the shore is one thing, but from the air, the sheer strangeness of the salt formations in and around the lake become readily apparent. Photos by Baz Ratner, of Reuters, and others.

Photo: Baz Ratner, Reuters

Photo: Baz Ratner, Reuters

Photo: Baz Ratner, Reuters

Photo: Baz Ratner, Reuters

Photo: Baz Ratner, Reuters

Photo: Meredith Nutting, CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo: Iman Mosaad

Photo Karen Wilson

Photo: Baz Ratner, Reuters

Photo: Meredith Nutting, CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo: Baz Ratner, Reuters (detail)

Photo: Baz Ratner, Reuters (detail)

Photo: Baz Ratner, Reuters (detail)

Romance and autistic spectrum

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Romance and autistic spectrum

Amy Harmon, who wrote in September about Justin Canha, an autistic high school student, has returned with another long, incisive, moving piece about young autistic adults striving to forge romantic relationships with one another:

From the beginning, their physical relationship was governed by the peculiar ways their respective brains processed sensory messages. Like many people with autism, each had uncomfortable sensitivities to types of touch or texture, and they came in different combinations.

Jack recoiled when Kirsten tried to give him a back massage, pushing deeply with her palms.

"Pet me," he said, showing her, his fingers grazing her skin. But Kirsten, who had always hated the feeling of light touch, shrank from his caress.

"Only deep pressure," she showed him, hugging herself.

He tried to kiss her, but it was hard for her to enjoy it, so obvious was his aversion. To him, kissing felt like what it was, he told her: mashing your face against someone else's. Neither did he like the sweaty feeling of hand-holding, a sensation that seemed to dominate all others whenever they tried it.

"I'm sorry," he said helplessly.

Navigating Love and Autism

(Thanks, Scott!)

Sunday, December 25, 2011


[Yum. -egg]

New works by CLAIRE MORGAN


"My work is about our relationship with the rest of nature, explored through notions of change, the passing of time, and the transience of everything around us. For me, creating seemingly solid structures or forms from thousands of individually suspended elements has a direct relation with my experience of these forces. There is a sense of fragility and a lack of solidity that carries through all the sculptures. I feel as if they are somewhere between movement and stillness, and thus in possession of a certain energy.

Animals, birds and insects have been present in my recent sculptures, and I use suspense to create something akin to freeze frames. In some works, animals might appear to rest, fly or fall through other seemingly solid suspended forms. In other works, insects appear to fly in static formations. The evidence of gravity - or lack of it - inherent in these scenarios is what brings them to life, or death.

I feel a close connection with the natural world which I hope is evident in my work, but our clumsy, often destructive relationship with nature, and the 'artificial' world we have contrived for ourselves are of equal significance. Ultimately I find myself focussing on areas where the boundaries cannot be clearly defined.

The titles of the works are very important, and often make reference to historical or contemporary popular culture, words being appropriated from the titles of films or books, or phrases being manipulated through combination with the artwork. These connections often add a comedic element to the works, a sense of irony or bluntness that keeps them firmly rooted in my experience of the world that we humans inhabit. Though the phrases have a specific history, the jarring between the title and the form can bring a desirable ambiguity through intentionally creating confusion.

The processes involved in the work are laborious and there are thousands of individual elements involved, but clarity of form is of high importance. I do not wish the animals to provide a narrative, but rather to introduce an element of movement, or energy, or some sort of reality; animating or interacting with the larger architectural forms.

Drawing is important, and allows me to explore a different side of each idea. The processes involved in my blood drawings bring a growing degree of understanding of material and form. "

Claire Morgan was born in Belfast in 1980. She currently lives and works in London.
She graduated in 2003 with a first class degree in Sculpture and has exhibited internationally, with solo exhibitions in the UK and Europe, and museum shows in US and Australia.