Archive for February 14th, 2011

February 14, 2011

Alphaville

alphaville

Alphaville: Une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution) is a 1965 black-and-white French science fiction film directed by Jean-Luc Godard. It combines the genres of dystopian science fiction and film noir (stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations). Although set far in the future on another planet, there are no special effects or elaborate sets; instead, the film was shot in real locations in Paris, the night-time streets of the capital becoming the streets of Alphaville, while modernist glass and concrete buildings represent the city’s interiors.

Expatriate American actor Eddie Constantine plays Lemmy Caution, a trenchcoat-wearing secret agent. Constantine had already played this or similar roles in dozens of previous films; the character was originally created by British pulp novelist Peter Cheyney. However, in Alphaville, director Jean-Luc Godard moves Caution away from his usual twentieth century setting, and places him in a futuristic sci-fi dystopia, the technocratic dictatorship of Alphaville.

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February 14, 2011

Jean-Luc Godard

godard

Jean-Luc Godard (b. 1930) is a French-Swiss filmmaker. He is often identified with the group of filmmakers known as the Nouvelle Vague, or ‘French New Wave.’ Many of his films challenge the conventions of traditional Hollywood cinema as well as the French equivalent. He is often considered the most extreme or radical of the New Wave filmmakers. His films express his political ideologies as well as his knowledge of film history. In addition, Godard’s films often cite existentialism as he was an avid reader of existential and Marxist philosophy.

His radical approach in movie conventions, politics and philosophies made him the most influential filmmaker of the French New Wave, inspiring directors as diverse as Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Bernardo Bertolucci, Paul Thomas Anderson, Arthur Penn, Hal Hartley, Richard Linklater, Gregg Araki, John Woo, Mike Figgis, Robert Altman, Steven Soderbergh, Richard Lester, Jim Jarmusch, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Brian De Palma, Wim Wenders, Oliver Stone and Ken Loach.

February 14, 2011

French New Wave

Breathless

The New Wave (French: La Nouvelle Vague) was a term coined by critics for a group of French filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s, influenced by Italian Neorealism (a style of film characterized by stories set amongst the poor and working class) and classical Hollywood cinema. French New Wave was a product of the social and political upheavals of the era; radical experiments with editing, visual style and narrative broke with the conservative paradigm.

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February 14, 2011

Amen Break

amen brother

The ‘Amen break‘ was a brief drum solo performed in 1969 by G. C. Coleman in the song ‘Amen, Brother’ performed by the 1960s funk and soul outfit The Winstons. It gained fame from the 1980s onwards when four bars (5.2 seconds) sampled from the drum-solo (or imitations thereof) became very widely used as sampled drum loops in hip hop and other music. The full song is an up-tempo instrumental rendition of Jester Hairston’s ‘Amen,’ which he wrote for the Sidney Poitier film Lilies of the Field (1963) and which was subsequently popularized by The Impressions in 1964.

The Winstons’ version was released as a B-side of the 45 RPM 7-inch vinyl single ‘Color Him Father’ in 1969 on Metromedia. The Amen Break was used extensively in early hiphop and sample-based music, and became the basis for drum-and-bass and jungle music—’a six-second clip that spawned several entire subcultures.’

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February 14, 2011

Break

In popular music, a break is an instrumental or percussion section or interlude during a song derived from or related to stop-time – being a ‘break’ from the main parts of the song or piece. A solo break in jazz occurs when the rhythm section stops playing behind a soloist for a brief period, usually two or four bars leading into the soloist’s first chorus. In DJ parlance, a break is where all elements of a song (e.g., pads, basslines, vocals), except for percussion, disappear for a time. This is distinguished from a breakdown, a section where the composition is deliberately deconstructed to minimal elements (usually the percussion or rhythm section with the vocal re-introduced over the minimal backing), all other parts having been gradually or suddenly cut out.

In hip hop and electronica, a short break is also known as a ‘cut,’ and the reintroduction of the full bass line and drums is known as a ‘drop,’ which is sometimes accented by cutting off everything, even the percussion. A break beat is the sampling of breaks as drum loops (beats), originally from soul tracks, and using them as the rhythmic basis for hip hop and rap songs. It was invented by DJ Kool Herc. A particularly innovative style of street dance was created to accompany break beat-based music, and was hence referred to as ‘The Break,’ or break dancing.

February 14, 2011

Radio Free Europe

rfe 1954

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is a broadcaster funded by the U.S. Congress that provides news, information, and analysis to countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East where the free flow of information is either banned by government authorities or not fully developed. Founded as an anti-communist source of information during the Cold War, RFE/RL was headquartered at Englischer Garten in Munich from 1949 until 1995 when they were moved to Prague.

It maintains 20 local bureaus, but authoritarian governments often attempt to obstruct the radios’ activities through a range of tactics, including extensive jamming, shutting down local re-broadcasting affiliates, or finding legal excuses to close down offices. In many of these countries, RFE/RL is often the first and most reliable source of domestic news for citizens. The safety of RFE/RL’s journalists and freelancers, who often risk their lives to broadcast information to their listeners and readers, has been a major concern throughout its broadcast history.

February 14, 2011

Marshall Plan

marshall plan aid

The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was a large-scale economic program, from 1947–51 by the US to rebuild post-war Europe. The initiative was named after Secretary of State George Marshall and was largely the creation of State Department officials. The same aid was offered to the Soviet Union and its allies, but they did not accept it. $13 billion ($124 billion in 2009 dollars) in economic and technical assistance were given to help the recovery of the European countries that had joined in the Organization for European Economic Co-operation. This $13 billion was in the context of a U.S. GDP of $258 billion in 1948, and was on top of $12 billion in American aid to Europe between the end of the war and the start of the Plan that is counted separately from the Marshall Plan.

By 1952 as the funding ended, the economy of every participant state had surpassed pre-war levels; for all Marshall plan recipients, output in 1951 was 35% higher than in 1938. Over the next two decades, Western Europe enjoyed unprecedented growth and prosperity, but economists are not sure what proportion was due directly to the ERP, what proportion indirectly, and how much would have happened without it. The Marshall Plan was one of the first elements of European integration, as it erased trade barriers and set up institutions to coordinate the economy on a continental level—that is, it stimulated the total political reconstruction of western Europe.

February 14, 2011

Revolution

De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

Copernicus named his treatise on the movements of planets around the sun ‘On the Revolutions of Celestial Bodies’ in 1583 The word ‘Revolution‘ then passed from astronomy into vernacular speech; coming to represent abrupt change in the social order. Political usage of the word first appeared in 1688 in the young United Kingdom as a description of the replacement of James II with William III. The process was termed ‘The Glorious Revolution.’

February 14, 2011

Weathering Steel

barclays center

Weathering steel, also known as COR-TEN steel, is a group of steel alloys which were developed to obviate the need for painting, and form a stable rust-like appearance if exposed to the weather for several years. Weathering steel is popularly used in outdoor sculptures and as exterior facades, for its rustic antique appearance. It is very widely used in marine transportation, in the construction of Intermodal containers.

Using weathering steel in construction presents several challenges. Ensuring that weld-points weather at the same rate as the other materials may require special welding techniques or material. Weathering steel is not rustproof in itself. If water is allowed to accumulate in pockets, those areas will experience higher corrosion rates, so provision for drainage must be made. Weathering steel is sensitive to salt-laden air environments. In such environments, it is possible that the protective patina may not stabilize but instead continue to corrode.

February 14, 2011

Jaron Lanier

jaron lanier

you are not a gadget

Jaron Lanier [lah-neer] (b. 1960) is an American computer scientist and artist. In the early 1980s he popularized the term ‘Virtual Reality’ (VR) for a field in which he was a pioneer. At that time, he founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products. His current appointments include Interdisciplinary Scholar-in-Residence, CET, UC Berkeley. In what is probably his most famous paper ‘One-Half of a Manifesto’ (Wired, 2000) Lanier opposes the prospect of so called ‘cybernetic totalism,’ which is ‘a cataclysm brought on when computers become ultra-intelligent masters of matter and life.’

Lanier’s position is that humans may not be considered to be biological computers, i.e., they may not be compared to digital computers in any proper sense, and it is very unlikely that humans could be generally replaced by computers easily in few decades, even economically. While processor performance increases according to Moore’s law, overall performance rises only very slowly. This is because our productivity in developing software increases only slightly, and software becomes more bloated and remains as error-prone as it ever was. He warns that the biggest problem of any theory is not that it is false, ‘but when it claims to be the sole and utterly complete path to understanding life and reality.’

February 14, 2011

Zhongnanhai

Zhongnanhai

Zhongnanhai is an area in central Beijing, China adjacent to the Forbidden City which serves as the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China and the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. The term Zhongnanhai is closely linked with the central government and senior Communist Party officials. It is a symbol of the Chinese leadership at large (in the same sense that the term White House frequently refers to the President of the United States and his associates).

The President of China, including Hu Jintao, and other top CPC and PRC leadership figures carry out many of their day-to-day administrative activities inside the compound, such as meetings with foreign dignitaries. However, the complex is shrouded in some mystery as it is closed to the general public, with photography additionally being strictly curtailed at several prominent locations such as the main gate. Since Zhongnanhai became the central government compound, it has been mostly inaccessible to the general public in the same way the Forbidden City was during the imperial era.

February 14, 2011

Flaming

Flaming, also known as bashing, is hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users. Flaming usually occurs in the social context of a Internet forum, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Usenet, by e-mail, game servers such as Xbox Live or Playstation Network, and on video-sharing websites. It is frequently the result of the discussion of heated real-world issues such as politics, sports, religion, and philosophy, or of issues that polarise subpopulations, but can also be provoked by seemingly trivial differences. Deliberate flaming, as opposed to flaming as a result of emotional discussions, is carried out by individuals known as flamers, who are specifically motivated to incite flaming. These users specialize in flaming and target specific aspects of a controversial conversation, and are usually more subtle than their counterparts.

Their counterparts are known as trolls who write obvious and blunt remarks to incite a flame war, as opposed to the more subtle, yet precise flamers. Some websites even cater for flamers and trolls, by allowing them a free environment, such as Flame-Wars forum. Flamebait is a message posted to a public Internet discussion group, such as a forum, newsgroup or mailing list, with the intent of provoking an angry response (a ‘flame’) or argument over a topic the poster often has no real interest in. While flaming can occur as a result of legitimate debates or grievances, flamebait implies the intentional posting of inflammatory rhetoric or images.