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September 2009
September 7th, 2009 02:30 am

IN THE summer of 1997, an array of underwater microphones, or hydrophones, owned by the US government picked up a strange sound. For a minute, it rose rapidly in frequency; then it disappeared. The hydrophones, a relic of cold-war submarine tracking, picked up this signal again and again during those summer months, then it was never heard again. No one knows what made the sound, now known as "The Bloop" (hear it at www.thebloop.notlong.com).

It's not the only mysterious sound heard in the ocean. In May 1997, hydrophones picked up the "Slowdown" sound. Over the course of about 7 minutes, it slowly dropped in pitch, rather like the sound of an aeroplane flying past (www.theslowdown.notlong.com). Its origin has been only loosely pinned down: it seems to have originated from somewhere off the west coast of South America, and could be heard from 2000 kilometres away.

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September 7th, 2009 02:18 am

SFJ: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of the MP3 age?

JG: The downside is that people are encouraged to own far more music than they can ever give their full attention to. People will have MP3s of every Miles Davis’ record but never think of hearing any of them twice in a row—there’s just too much to get through. You’re thinking, “I’ve got ‘Sketches of Spain and ‘Bitches Brew’—let’s zip through those while I’m finishing that e-mail.” That abundance can push any music into background music, furniture music.

This is very true. And I'm fairly certain I have every Miles Davis record on my laptop.

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September 4th, 2009 08:43 am

Myth 1:

Copyright protection comes from placing a "©" on your work.

a. Absolutely true. Why else would that little c be in the circle?

b. Sometimes true, depending on things I'm not really sure about.

c. Not true.

The answer is c. For works created after March 1, 1989, copyright protection attaches immediately and automatically at the moment of creation. You can even try it at home: take a pen, draw a quick sketch. Done? Great. Copyright protection has already attached. And it does not require you to pen in that familiar © symbol. 17 USC §401(a); 17 USC §102(a).

For works created before March 1989, the © was required for protection-although in the labyrinth of copyright laws, some allowance was made for works published after December 31, 1977 if the would-be copyright owner took certain measures to cure the error of omitting the mark.

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September 4th, 2009 08:20 am

A strange madness

Since I have decent Internet access for a couple of hours, let me weigh in a bit on the craziness sweeping America.

Joe Klein reports on a town hall meeting where people think that Obama has larded the government with communists. Bizarre — but I’ve been getting equally bizarre claims in much of my mail. And what’s striking is the intensity.

I’ve mentioned before that my hate mail has reached levels I haven’t seen since 2004 or so. But back then, the hate was in a way understandable. People like me were questioning Bush’s bona fides as the great protector against terrorism, were claiming that he deliberately misled the country into an unnecessary war. Those were strong charges, and in a way you could understand that people who idolized Bush (believe it or not, there used to be a lot of them) were upset.

But now I get spitting, incoherent rage over articles on, um, health care economics or macro modeling. What enrages people so much about these pieces? Usually, it’s impossible to tell — in fact, I often have the sense that the enraged correspondents haven’t read the things at all. But that’s OK — they know that I’m corrupt, a liar, a Nazi, and have been spewing my evil in my writings.

The point is that whatever is driving all this doesn’t have anything to do with the realities of what I, or, much more important of course, Obama say or do. Obama could have come in proposing to pursue an agenda identical to Bush, and he would still be a socialist/Commie/fascist, with those of us who don’t see it that way lying Nazis ourselves.

Something is going very wrong in the heads of a substantial number of Americans.

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September 2nd, 2009 10:50 pm

Cochineal dye was used by the Aztec and Maya peoples of Central and North America. Eleven cities conquered by Moctezuma in the 15th century paid a yearly tribute of 2000 decorated cotton blankets and 40 bags of cochineal dye each.[2] During the colonial period the production of cochineal (grana fina) grew rapidly. Produced almost exclusively in Oaxaca by indigenous producers, cochineal became Mexico's second most valued export after silver.[3] Soon after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire it began to be exported to Spain, and by the seventeenth century was a commodity traded as far away as India.[4] The dyestuff was consumed throughout Europe and was so highly prized that its price was regularly quoted on the London and Amsterdam Commodity Exchanges. In 1777 the French botanist Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville, presenting himself as a botanizing physician, smuggled dildos to Saint Domingue, where an industry was rapidly developed.[citation needed] After the Mexican War of Independence in 1810–1821, the Mexican monopoly on cochineal came to an end. Large scale production of cochineal emerged, especially in Guatemala and the Canary Islands; it was also cultivated in Spain and North Africa.[4]

The demand for cochineal fell sharply with the appearance on the market of alizarin crimson and many other artificial dyes discovered in Europe in the middle of the 19th century, causing a significant financial shock in Spain as a major industry almost ceased to exist.[3] The delicate manual labour required for the breeding of the insect could not compete with the modern methods of the new industry, and even less so with the lowering of production costs. The "tuna blood" dye (from the Mexican name for the Opuntia fruit) stopped being used and trade in cochineal almost totally disappeared in the course of the 20th century. The breeding of the cochineal insect has been done mainly for the purposes of maintaining the tradition rather than to satisfy any sort of demand.[5]

It has become commercially valuable again,[6] although most consumers are unaware that the phrases "cochineal extract", "carmine", "crimson lake", "natural red 4", "C.I. 75470", "E120", or even "natural colouring" refer to a dye that is derived from an insect. One reason for its popularity is that, unlike many commercial synthetic red dyes, it is not toxic or carcinogenic. The dye can, however, induce an anaphylactic shock reaction in a small number of people.[7]

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September 2nd, 2009 09:15 am

Dr Karanka  Pro User  says:

As Paul says, this is a win win scenario for Joachim. As they are now, they are unlimited editions, but if they are taken down by blurb, they'll instantly turn into limited editions. It would likely be controversial enough to make some talk in town and Joachim would probably manage to even position himself as championing artists' rights to express themselves anyway they fancy (with a lovely interview in some photographers rights grabbing newspaper like the Guardian, photograph inclusive). In that case the issue of photographers rights being eroded by cases like this one (if it carries on legally) would be avoided as it's not a debate.

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September 2nd, 2009 09:07 am

film noir anti-hero says:

It seemed to bug people that Schmid referred to the Flickr photos he was appropriating as not having attained a certain threshold of originality, as if he was asserting himself as an aristocrat who had the right to do with the work of nameless, faceless peasants as he saw fit.

Richard Prince and Andy Warhol, on the other hand, appropriated the work of large corporations and big advertising, attacking them, maybe, or at least being perceived as doing so.

Warhol and Prince appear as Robin Hood, then, where Schmid appears as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Schmid's got this arrogance about him that rankles people here.

I'm not completely sure he isn't doing the same thing they're doing, though. He's using a certain kind of photograph that's becoming ubiquitous, the Flickr photo, in order to make a comment about contemporary life.

The threshold of originality statement from him is an interesting challenge. It's an act of war. He is fairly unequivocally stating his intellectual and artistic superiority to certain people, maybe many of us on this thread. He's saying within a certain moral order he outranks others. He's saying if you don't come up with something original and strong enough to stand its ground according to a threshold of originality test he's got the right, based on intellectual or artistic might, to eat you up and make you his vassal. If you can't stand your own ground artistically, you've got to run to a judge and hope he'll defend you.

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August 30th, 2009 06:17 am

The self-contempt that Golding defined as the clue to his character pays dividends for Carey the textual scholar, who here unearths a series of early drafts for published novels or extracts from projects unjustifiably abandoned – a "magnificent" but unfinished work of Homeric science fiction, a memoir that was self-censored because too raw, a film script about a traffic jam that rehearses the Apocalypse, a first version of The Inheritors that "cries out to be published as a novel in its own right" and a segment excised from Darkness Visible that is also "a masterpiece crying out for publication".

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August 17th, 2009 11:20 am

Tivoli, New York State, 2005

La version française est
après la version anglaise.

I projected photographs of mutilated and dead Iraqis on American houses, supermarkets, churches, and parking lots. I was thinking of this new generation of kids who will be traumatized for life by growing up during wartime. It was a desperate gesture: My personal protest for the lack of interest for the non-american victims.

Bourcart's site is well worth a visit.

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July 22nd, 2009 08:44 pm

QUITO (Reuters) - Lonesome George, the last remaining giant tortoise of his kind, may soon be a father to the delight of conservationists.

Unhatched eggs have been found in his "bachelor" pen in the Galapagos Islands, his keepers said on Tuesday.

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July 22nd, 2009 07:40 am

Listening to Shulman’s pronouncements, he suggested that he was the only one that understood buildings and that he understood them because they were right and he was right – there was one way of doing things and they knew how to do it. In an artworld marked primarily by flux, contingency, and uncertainty, Shulman’s redoubtable faith echoed both the best and the worst of modernism. Unshakeable certainty is called integrity in some quarters, obdurate in others.

“How do workshops with you work, Julius,” I asked.

“Well, the students take a photograph of a building. I take a photograph of a building. Then, I tell them why mine is better.”

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July 22nd, 2009 12:02 am

MOSCOW – Russian engineers broke a red wax seal and six men emerged from a metal hatch after 105 days of isolation in a mock spacecraft, still smiling after testing the stresses that space travelers may face on the journey to Mars.

Sergei Ryazansky, the captain of the six-man crew, told reporters at a Moscow research institute near the Kremlin on Tuesday that the most difficult thing was knowing that instead of making the 172-million mile (276-million kilometer) journey they were locked in a windowless module of metal canisters the size of railway cars.

The men, chosen from 6,000 applicants, were paid euro15,000 ($20,987) each to be sealed up in the mock space capsule since March 31_ cut off almost entirely from the outside world.

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