Sebastião Salgado recently gave a brilliant TED talk on his story as a photographer and showed some images from his newest project, Genesis:
Brazilian-born Salgado, who shoots only using Kodak film, is known for his incredibly long-term projects, which require extensive travel and extreme lifestyle changes. Workers took seven years to complete and contained images of manual laborers from 26 countries, while Migrations took six years in 43 different countries on all seven continents. Most recently Salgado completed Genesis, an ambitious eight-year project that spanned 30 trips to the world’s most pristine territories, land untouched by technology and modern life. Among Salgado’s many travels for Genesis was a two-month hike through Ethiopia, spanning 500 miles with 18 pack donkeys and their riders. In the words of Brett Abbott, a Getty Museum curator, Salgado’s approach can only be described as “epic.”
Sebastião Salgado: The Silent Drama of Photography [TED]
Last summer three peace activists, one of whom was an 82-year-old nun, broke into Y-12 in Tennessee – ostensibly one of the most secure nuclear weapons facilities in the world. They go on trial next week for sabotage-related charges. Against all odds, they managed to make it through security where they spray-painted slogans calling for swords to be beaten into plowshares before being arrested. Dan Zak tells their story in the Washington Post:
The action last summer was dubbed “Transform Now Plowshares” because its three participants desire the immediate conversion of all nuclear weaponry from agents of war to resources that benefit mankind.
Michael and Sister Megan live in the world as they believe it should be, not in the world as it is.
Sister Megan doesn’t vote.
“It would mean I would be a citizen of this regime. I am a citizen of the world. I act in consequence.”
Michael derides Washington as the belly of the beast.
“Did you know that the last president who wasn’t a war criminal was Herbert Hoover?”
Says Sister Megan of Michael: “His mind is never still.”
Says Michael of Sister Megan: “She’s a visionary.”
Together they’re like an overactive younger brother and patient older sister. Michael summons the brimstone, Sister Megan the bromide.
The Prophets of Oak Ridge [Washington Post]
Photographer Gabriele Galimberti has created an interesting photo essay in which she’s travelled around the world photographing kids with their most prized possessions. She commented on the differences – and similarities – she observed over the course of the project:
But how they play can reveal a lot. “The richest children were more possessive. At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them,” says the Italian, who would often join in with a child’s games before arranging the toys and taking the photograph. “In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.”
Yet even children worlds apart share similarities when it comes to the function their toys serve. Galimberti talks about meeting a six-year-old boy in Texas and a four-year-old girl in Malawi who both maintained their plastic dinosaurs would protect them from the dangers they believed waited for them at night – from kidnappers and poisonous animals respectively. More common was how the toys reflected the world each child was born into: so the girl from an affluent Mumbai family loves Monopoly, because she likes the idea of building houses and hotels, while the boy from rural Mexico loves trucks, because he sees them rumbling through his village to the nearby sugar plantation every day.
Pictured above is Maudy, from Kalulushi, Zambia. Below is Virginia, from American Fork, Utah.
Toy Stories [Gabrielle Galimberti]
Smithsonian Magazine has a fascinating story about a Russian family who were isolated in the taiga for 40 years before being discovered by a surveying crew in the summer of 1978.
The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—”a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar,” with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells. Looking around in the dim light, the visitors saw that it consisted of a single room. It was cramped, musty and indescribably filthy, propped up by sagging joists—and, astonishingly, home to a family of five:
“The silence was suddenly broken by sobs and lamentations. Only then did we see the silhouettes of two women. One was in hysterics, praying: ‘This is for our sins, our sins.’ The other, keeping behind a post… sank slowly to the floor. The light from the little window fell on her wide, terrified eyes, and we realized we had to get out of there as quickly as possible.”
Led by Pismenskaya, the scientists backed hurriedly out of the hut and retreated to a spot a few yards away, where they took out some provisions and began to eat. After about half an hour, the door of the cabin creaked open, and the old man and his two daughters emerged—no longer hysterical and, though still obviously frightened, “frankly curious.” Warily, the three strange figures approached and sat down with their visitors, rejecting everything that they were offered—jam, tea, bread—with a muttered, “We are not allowed that!” When Pismenskaya asked, “Have you ever eaten bread?” the old man answered: “I have. But they have not. They have never seen it.” At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. “When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing.”
Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged. The old man’s name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer—a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century. Old Believers had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and “the anti-Christ in human form”—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar’s campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly “chopping off the beards of Christians.” But these centuries-old hatreds were conflated with more recent grievances; Karp was prone to complain in the same breath about a merchant who had refused to make a gift of 26 poods [940 pounds] of potatoes to the Old Believers sometime around 1900.
Lydia Callis, NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s ASL interpreter, is fantastically animated. She makes quite a striking juxtaposition with Bloomberg, possibly one of the least expressive people on the planet. She’s become so popular that she even has her own fan-tumblr, and according to Kambri Crews of the Huffington Post (also a Child of Deaf Adults, or CODA), Callis’ expressiveness is not play-acting at all:
The only harmful editorial I’ve seen in sharing clips of Callis in action aren’t criticizing her or her skills or uncovering a widespread hatred of deaf people or their language. Nope, they love her and are fascinated by ASL. Instead, their “negative” comments are borne from unfamiliarity with ASL as a language assuming Callis is being “over-animated” or hopped up on Red Bull.
For example, these folks on Huffington Post, excited to share her awesomeness said she’s “mugging for the camera and gesturing wildly“. If you read the full post, you’ll quickly surmise they are big fans of Callis. But in their description of her interpreting, they show their ignorance on how ASL works.
We speakers of ASL know that her exaggerated expressions are key to conveying tone, meaning and emotion. DUH! Sure, it’s a bit lazy on the writer’s part to not research something before making comment. They meant no harm. It was a fun piece. What’s to research? I get it. But many, probably most, people who aren’t familiar with ASL don’t realize Callis’ emphatic signing is an essential attribute of the language.
Meet Lydia Callis, Bloomberg’s Star Interpreter [NYMag]
Liu Xianping has become somewhat of a celebrity in China. When his granddaughter needed someone to model for her women’s fashion store, he stepped up to do it. Apparently, his figure is the envy of women all over China. I can’t quite decide if I think this is really sweet of him or not…
Matt Stopera of Buzzfeed recently went to the national hobo convention in the town of Britt, Iowa and reported on what he learned – 61 things to be exact. Pictured above is the illustration of thing-he-learned #26, that hoboes have their own creed and take it very seriously.
Wrong Way, the guy in this photo, told me he started making jewelry because of the Hobo Creed. The fifth entry on the hobo creed says: “When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.” Wrong Way said he started making jewelry when he couldn’t find any work where he was.
He also said he will never forget the day he was able to buy a cheeseburger with fries with his own money. It was one of the best feelings ever.
61 Things I Learned at the National Hobo Convention [Buzzfeed]
Defective Heart Girl Problems is a blog where physicist Summer Ash recounts her experience of having a defective heart valve and undergoing treatment for it:
I recently discovered that I was born with a congenital heart defect known as bicuspid aortic valve disease (BAVD). It’s not a disease, per se, so much as a defect. Most people (roughly 99% of them) are born with a tricuspid aortic valve. I am the lucky 1% born with a bicuspid valve. (I am the 1%!)
As a bonus, being born with this genetic mutation also means the lower part of my aorta, the part that connects to the aortic valve and helps channel the flow of oxygenated blood into the arteries, has less fibrillin-1 – a protein that helps to maintain the structural integrity of the aortic wall. This means that my aorta is prone to “stretching out” and even the normal stress of blood flow coming out of the heart and being channelled to the rest of the body is enough to cause it to start ballooning outward.
The nominal course of BAVD usually entails the aortic valve calcifying and stiffening later in life (60s – 70s), ending in valve replacement surgery. Some people will also need the root of their aortas replaced at this time, some may not. My problem is that my aorta is jumping the gun; it’s already stretched out to the point where it’s considered an aortic aneurysm. I like to imagine it as a hipster, dilating before it’s cool to do so.
A few days ago, she posted the full story of her surgery, along with detailed photographs. Very interesting, but not for the faint of heart.
Tales From the OR [DHGP]
In honour of what would be the 100th birthday of Alan Turing, Ars Technica has an interesting view of his life, disguised as a guide to his highly productive habits. Alan Turing, by the way, was instrumental in breaking the German Enigma code in WWII and is commonly regarded as the father of computer science. He died in 1954 of an apparent suicide after years of persecution for his homosexuality, although alternate theories abound.
Habit #2: Don’t Get Sidetracked by Ideologies:
Turing went to King’s College, Cambridge in 1931. Two years later the Oxford Union debating society issued its famous declaration: “That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country.” While not an explicitly pacifist statement, the Oxford Pledge reflected enormous disillusionment with the course and consequences of the First World War.
1933 was a year for radical credos. The global Great Depression was in full swing. “Am thinking of going to Russia some time in vac[ation] but have not yet quite made up my mind,” Alan wrote to his mother. He also joined an organization called the Anti-War Council. “Politically rather communist. Its programme is principally to organize strikes amongst munitions and chemical workers when government intends to go to war.”
But none of this ever came to anything. Turing didn’t go to the Soviet Union, and he found the Marxist institutions on campus just as suffocating as the public school that he attended. Turing “was not interested in organising anyone,” Hodges observes, “and did not wish to be organised by anyone else. He had escaped from one totalitarian system, and had no yearning for another.”
Not only did Alan Turing reject a Marxist framework, but he would soon fix his skeptical sights on an overarching question haunting theoretical mathematicians at the time:
“Could there exist, at least in principle, a definite method or process by which it could be decided whether any given mathematical assertion was provable?”
The Highly Productive Habits of Alan Turing [Ars]
Posted in History, People, Science, Technology, Thought-Provoking
Tagged Alan Turing, Brilliant, Computer Science, Enigma, Genius, Mathematics, Sidetracked
9-year-old Martha started a food blog, Never Seconds, a while ago where she uploads pictures of her lunches at her school in Scotland, along with a rating and her commentary. The original goal of the blog was to raise money for a school-meals charity, although it had the added benefit of getting her school to change their meals to make them healthier.
But after a series of inflammatory and sensationalistic news reports bashed the school, she was told that she had to stop. She wrote a last blog post a few days ago, followed by a note from her father thanking the school for their support and noting that he’d contacted the council about the ban:
This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.
I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too. I don’t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals either.
But after the school council received a tremendous amount of attention over the whole thing, they lifted it, with the head of the school council saying that “[t]here is no place for censorship in this council and never will be whilst I am leader”. Something good has come out of the whole thing, as all the attention has resulted in a lot of donations for Mary’s Meals, the charity Martha’s been raising money for. According to her blog, they’ve raised almost 46 000 pounds as of today, enough to set up a kitchen in Malawi.
By the way, the headline, “Fire the Dinner Ladies”, is not at all in the spirit of her blog.
School’s Ban on 9-Year Old Blogger’s Cafeteria Photos Lasts All of One Day [TheConsumerist]