Archives

October 2009

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Oct 30

I have always been under the impression that America has not given its female photographers the credit they deserve(d), and that it is maybe a bit too generous with its male ones. For example, Ansel Adams might have been very important for those who just love to toil away in the darkroom, but his photography strikes me as tremendously overrated (even though it’s just perfect for calendars). I have never understood why there are so many books about Adams and so few about Dorothea Lange. I know people love the moonrise photo - I’ve seen an actual print, and it’s an OK photo - but compared with Lange’s Migrant Mother it’s like stale Seltzer compared with freshly sparkling champagne. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the champagne any time. Luckily, there now is Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits, a new biography, written by Linda Gordon.
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Oct 30

Turning the camera onto one’s own country poses many risks. In order for the work to have lasting artistic value there are many problems to deal with. The work can become too sentimental, too nationalistic, too propagandistic, too positive or too negative, it can end up containing too much navel-gazing, it can look to similar to the ground-breaking work by someone else (or not similar enough), and the list goes on and on and on. In a nutshell, turning the camera onto one’s own country is one of the hardest thing to do. So here we have We English, in which Simon Roberts presents his images of England and the English - effortlessly steering around all thosee aforementioned obstacles.
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Oct 30

Andreas Gefeller’s Supervisions have been the subject of two books, first Supervisions and now Andreas Gefeller: Photographs. Let’s assume that you think buying one is enough - which one, though, and why that one? To make what could be a long story short, you want to buy the newer one, Andreas Gefeller: Photographs. Here is why.
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Oct 29

Here’s a creative idea: “Graphic Intersections is a collaborative project loosely based on the old Surrealist and Dadaist game The Exquisite Corpse. Designed to unite disparate artists in an interconnected photographic relay of images inspired by one another, this project strives to emphasize a system of response entirely rooted in unmediated visual reaction. The first photographer made a photograph, which was subsequently forwarded to the second in line. The 2nd then, based solely on their own visual, emotional, intellectual or philosophical response, in turn made photographs in artistic reaction to the one they were given. The artists involved were not given any written material to accompany the photograph, nor did they know whose image they were responding to. This was designed to propagate chance, or as the Surrealist’s put it, exploit ‘the mystique of accident.’”
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Oct 29

“To me the big thing in this moment is not so much the decline of newspapers but the failure of almost everybody so far to find a way to sustain accountability journalism online.” - Nicholas Lemann
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Oct 29

There are a lot of good and interesting points being made by William Patry in this interview (found here), which, I am sure, will have a lot of people get very upset. I don’t agree with all the various details, but I do agree very strongly with these following statements: “I would rather not draw a sharp distinction between creators and users. One of the transformational attributes of the Internet is to make all of us potential creators. The same is true of fair use: fair use is of benefit to all creators, including large corporations.” and “I would like to see copyright return to the U.S. Copyright Act, where we had a shorter term, and formalities, a copyright law that gave copyright owners enough incentives but not too much.”
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Oct 29

“This site contains the American (1950’s through 1980’s) vintage and vernacular photograph collection of Doug Rickard, Founder of American Suburb X. Also contained are select archives from the Documerica Project (1971-1977) which was sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency.”
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Oct 29

More typologies: Julia Baum’s Houses. She writes “As I take a second look at these neighborhoods, I’ve found vast differences in what was once a uniform typology. Over the past 50 years these Houses have transformed from modest white cubes into a vibrant display of personality and present a rebellion against conformity. My work asserts that human individuality cannot be contained.”
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Oct 28

I keep coming back to the question what it actually is that I’m looking for in photography (and art), in part because people ask me - and usually, as the other day in a conversation with Anne-Celine Jaeger, I don’t have a good (which here means snappy and simple) answer. Well, until I figured it out: What I really love is transformative photography (in part I owe this insight to Chris Anderson, with whom I had an email discussion). Transformative photography is photography that changes you as a person, that asks questions (instead of answering them). You’re not the same person any longer after you’ve looked at it - and given the nature of this experience, it usually cannot be depleted (even though it might become weaker with time).
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Oct 28

There is an excerpt from After Photography by Fred Ritchin “on technology’s potential to make the photographic image less controlling and more revealing” over at Design Observer.
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Oct 28

If you’re in need of stuffed animals (“taxidermy” makes it sound fancy) Andrew Tunnard shows you how it’s done.
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Oct 27

Photography consultant Mary Virginia Swanson just shared a handout from a seminar she gave, Presenting your work to the Fine Art Community. There also is Finding Your Audience: An Introduction to Marketing Your Photographs. Have a peek. A lot of the stuff sounds very obvious, but you’d be quite surprised to see the various things I’ve run into over the past years…
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Oct 27

You need to be a little bit patient with Liza Faktor’s website (since it loads rather slowly), but there is a lot of photography to discover. Apart from being a photographer, Liza has also been working as a photography producer and curator.
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Oct 26

Max Sher’s website features several of his stories shot in Russia - lots of beautiful photographs.
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Oct 26

DLK just published a very relevant post: How Should We Evaluate Digital Craftsmanship? I’m actually a little bit surprised how little people talk about the issue of quality when it comes to digital processing and printing. And I could be mistaken, but I’ve always been a bit under the impression that when dealing with digital prints, people don’t mind overlooking problems that would cause quite the stir in the analogue case.
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Oct 26

Andrej Krementschouk’s portrayal of Russia is subject of his book No Direction Home (this page contains higher quality images than the photographer’s site - thanks, Leo!).
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Oct 23

Andrej Krementschouk was born in a city then known as Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod), Russia. His career include a completed apprenticeship as a restorer of icons and metal objets d’art, and a diploma degree as chorus director, work as a freelance jeweller and restorer of icons, a diploma degree in Communication Design, with a focus in photography, the latter in Germany: Here is a true wanderer between the worlds. No Direction Home takes him back to Russia, as a photographer, to create a very intimate study of the country, and that means his own roots.
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Oct 23

Is there a crisis in photojournalism? By “crisis” people either mean the business (“with the media in crisis how will photojournalism survive?”) or the photography itself. I am on record for criticizing a subset of photojournalism for its overly generous use of cliches; but I don’t think there is a crisis in photojournalism, at least as far as the photography side is concerned (In the following, I’ll ignore the business side, since I’m not an expert on it, and since it’s besides the scope of this article). Georgian Spring - A Magnum Journal is a wonderful book for many reasons, one of them being the fact that it can serve as a good starting point for discussions of the nature of the beast, photojournalism’s imagery. Of course, it is a little bit unfair to use the book in such a way - shouldn’t I be talking about the topic of the book? But in this case, talking about the book almost inevitably involves talking about photojournalism itself. (more)
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Oct 22

Via thingsmagazine I found Martin Roemers’ photographs of Relics of the Cold War.
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Oct 22

“Thomas Ruff is explaining the enduring concerns that have animated the work that has made him one of the most innovative and distinguished art photographers of recent decades: ‘I always want to take the medium of photography into the picture, so that you are always aware that you are looking at an image - a photograph,’ he says, before continuing, ‘so, in the picture I hope you can see two things: the image itself, plus the reflection - or the thinking - about photography. I hope it’s visible. I’m an investigator, and it is as if I am investigating the grammar of photography.’” - from an interview with Thomas Ruff (my emphasis)
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Oct 22

Gabriel Benaim’s Tel Aviv at 100 contains a lot of interesting photography.
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Oct 22

Tim Wu explains the “fair use” clause in American copyright (found via), discussing Shepard Fairey’s Obama poster (it just won’t go away). In a nutshell: “Fair use […] is all about justification, and this is a key to understanding it. Fair use allows use of a work that would ordinarily constitute infringement, if that use is justified (or excused, if you like) with some compelling reason.” (emphasis in the original)
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Oct 22

If you want to know what it’s like to take photographs backstage at some concert, here’s Andrew’s account of his adventure with “Creed” (bonus: no talk of how wonderful the latest digital cameras are).
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Oct 21

“I felt a strong need to create a body of work that goes against what the media has depicted as beautiful. […] The work deals with reality and no photoshop has been used to remove blemishes, scars, cellulite and any other form of ‘imperfection’, but also touches on fantasy.” - Jodi Bieber about Real Beauty
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Oct 20

“For Japanese photographer Yuki Tawada, the artwork is not considered finished even when the printing process has been completed, as the paper and the image itself can still be manipulated for new visual and emotional effects.” (source)
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Oct 20

Keisuke Shirota expands photographs by painting around them.
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Oct 20

Via Tyler Green’s blog I found this post, in which seven photographers explain why they work in photography.
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Oct 20

Ross Mantle’s In The Wake of an American Dream perfectly portrays the de-industrialized areas around Pittsburgh.
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Oct 19

I usually don’t advertize competitions or portfolio reviews, for the most part simply because I don’t see such announcements as what this blog is about. That said, I am happy to make an exception and announce that registration for the Hyeres 2010 Festival is now open. If you’re unfamiliar with Hyeres, it’s a little town in the south of France, which holds a rather big fashion and photography festival every Spring. I had the chance to see the festival twice - once as a jury member - and I think it’s by far the best opportunity for young artists I am aware of.
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Oct 19

Martha Schwendener has some questions for photographers: “why, at this moment, when the world is awash in vernacular images and consumed by geopolitical, eco, and economic crises, are artist-photographers holed up in their studios and darkrooms, interrogating the medium? Why not pick up a camera and document the collapse?” And then, at the end: “So does it matter how either of these artists made their photographs? Or has process become the new (or revived) fetish of photography, something to occupy us now that the bickering over whether photography is art has died down? Except that another question looms, both on the pages of Words Without Pictures and elsewhere. Actually, it’s an old one, but it’s carrying new, post-digital baggage: What, in 2009, is a photograph?”
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Oct 19

Chinese photographer Muge’s website contains a ton of great photos. Access to his website can be a bit tricky, though: Sometimes, it loads very slowly (or not at all). So bring a bit of patience if it won’t come up, or come back later - it’s well worth the visit!
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Oct 16

Photography books have become so popular that there is a steadily growing number of books about them. The Photobook: A History, Vol. 1 and The Photobook: A History, Vol. 2 are probably the most well known examples, but there also is Bertolotti’s Books Of Nudes. Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and 70s is the latest addition to the genre. But why Japanese photobooks? Why not American, English, or German?
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Oct 16

Just like almost every aspect of our modern life, child beauty pageants have become an industry that generates a lot of money for those behind them. In a nutshell, here is how this works: “There is a minimum cost of $545 to enter the [Universal Royalty] pageant, which covers basic entry fees. Another $395 is needed for the maximum options of this pageant. The average cost of the pageant is about $655 which includes the formal wear, sports wear and dance. The average cost does not include travel, hotel and food, which can be up to an extra two hundred dollars. According to several stage mothers participating in Universal Royalty, dresses for sports and formal wear can cost up to $12,000 with a minimum of $1500.” (source) The title to win is the “grand supreme”: “The grand supreme winner receives one thousand dollars in cash, ten-inch crystal crown, six-foot trophy, supreme entry paid in full to nationals, tote bag, satin rhinestone banner, teddy bear, bouquet of long stem red roses, gifts, video of the pageant, and photo on advertisement of beauty pageant.” (same source) So in a nutshell, the winner gets her/his [parents’] money back, some trophies, plus a title (which might or might not mean something). The rest also get trophies and titles, but no money.
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Oct 15

Matt Dallos’ Park Forrest Village depicts post-WWII suburbs in the eastern US, with their curious mix of real and artificial landscape.
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Oct 14

This article provides addresses some of the issues that enter the discussions surrounding Pieter Hugo’s work, and it’s an important read.
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Oct 14

“What I struggle with is that every thing excites me, cities, supermarkets, roads, dirt, rubbish, car parks, advertising, people, deforestation, excavation, fires, floods and violence. All of these things can be beautiful, yet I see the damage; the pain the obscenity of everything. When I am in the city, I long for the country the open space around me, yet in the city I enjoy all that goes on around me.” - Teo Ormond-Skeaping
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Oct 14

“I have been working on my project ‘our face’ since 1999. In the project, I visit various local areas around the world to take photos of the various groups of people living there. On 35 mm film, I take photos of the people who form their respective communities, both old and new […] Then I create a portrait by evenly layering the images of the members of each group with a precise analog printing technique. In this globalization age, the project attempts to capture the world as an accumulation of localities.” - Ken Kitano (via)
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Oct 13

As I noted elsewhere, a little while ago Jim Johnson published a pretty harsh criticism of Pieter Hugo’s work, saying that the photographer seemed “to portray Africa as a freak show”. I’m torn about Hugo’s work, some I like very much (such as Looking Aside or Messina / Musina), some I think deserves to be called out by Jim (this would be The Hyena and Other Men and Nollywood). Of course, my preferences are solely based on looking at the photographs (I own two of the books) and on reacting to them based on a) what I know about photography, b) how I view photography, c) what I like and don’t like in photography, and d) what I know about Africa from reading about it (I have never been there myself) and from talking with a good photographer friend who spent a long time taking photos there. Today, Amy Stein published a piece written by Sebastien Boncy, which makes Jim’s post sound pretty tame. Of course, throwing in the word “racism” means pouring a lot of kerosine into the flames; but hopefully, the piece will initiate a debate that will talk about the issues and help clearing things up a bit.
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Oct 13

I think at this stage I might have seen enough typologies for a (long) while. But you might be someone who just can’t get enough of them. So here are Luis Diaz Diaz’s Music Boxes.
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Oct 13

For his series “Nachklang”, which deals with Georgia one year after its war with Russia, Uwe Schober created composites of images taken in 2008 and 2009. I don’t think all images work equally well, but there are plenty that are very impressive - and it certainly is a very innovative way of trying to cover the subject matter.
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Oct 12

Jeremy M. Lange’s “The War at Home” “explores the effects of the US led wars in the Middle East on the people left in the United States, primarily focusing on soldiers and their families, but also looking at the results of the protracted and divisive conflicts on American culture.”
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Oct 12

Here’s an interview with Ivan Vartanian that you don’t want to miss, especially if you’re interested in photo books.
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Oct 12

“Every now and then, the art world offers up an unlikely story, and Robert Bergman’s is one of them. The 65-year-old photographer went his own way over the past four decades, never selling a work until two years ago, but he nevertheless is about to burst onto the scene with two museum exhibitions this month. One is at the prestigious, conservative National Gallery of Art in Washington. The other is at P.S.1 in Queens, the adventurous branch of the Museum of Modern Art. And next month he will have his first show at a commercial gallery, Yossi Milo in Chelsea.” (story). Find an interview with Bergman here.
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Oct 9

We are not unfamiliar with new countries emerging from the break-up of older ones, or from parts becoming independent. In fact, after the fall of Communism, a whole series of new countries emerged. But a country vanishing? As it does turn out, the country formerly known as the German Democratic Republic - aka East Germany - did disappear. Mind you, its people and cities remained where they were. But in the course of what Germans call “re-unification” its political and economical system, along with large parts of its social fabric, were made to disappear. A very good way for non-Germans to get an idea of what this meant is to watch the movie Good Bye, Lenin!.
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Oct 8

Issue #5 of Proximity Magazine contains a piece by Bert Stabler entitled I Don’t Like Photography. It’s a remarkable piece that starts out asking why “fine art photography is so frequently dull and distasteful, so paralyzed by moribund subjects and forms?”
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Oct 8

Beautiful portraiture by Mirjana Vrbaski
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Oct 8

“I collect second hand tourist guides. Within the century of printed photographs that they contain, I search for plates that have been printed at similar scale, taken from a similar view point. When I find a near match between book plates, I cut and fold the pages into a new single surface.” - Abigail Reynolds
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Oct 7

“Irving Penn, one of the 20th century’s most prolific and influential photographers of fashion and the famous, whose signature blend of classical elegance and cool minimalism was recognizable to magazine readers and museumgoers worldwide, died Wednesday morning at his home in Manhattan.” - obit (Rob’s blog alerted me to this)
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Oct 7

Following up on this earlier post, here’s On The Media reporting on ‘Ruin Porn’ (btw, that’s not photographs of naked women in abandoned buildings - the supposed appeal of which escapes me, but that’s another topic). Jerry Redfern, a photojournalist, sent this to me, pointing out the major shortcoming of On The Media’s report: They make it sound as if photographers are sent to Detroit with unlimited budgets and the general instruction to take photos of whatever they want (my way of phrasing this, not Jerry’s). Obviously, that’s not the case. Of course, there are photographers who go to Detroit just because it’s something they want to do, but the photography you see in, for example, Time Magazine was done for that magazine, to illustrate some story. So making it sound as if ‘Ruin Porn’ was just the photographers’ fault really doesn’t cut it: In the world of Time et al. ‘Ruin Porn’ might just be a symptom of larger problems in the world of journalism.
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Oct 7

No, I’m not talking about President Obama. I’m talking about the art that is decorating the White House now, in particular Ed Ruscha’s I think I’ll…. But then of course, this painting perfectly expresses Mr. Obama’s presidency so far.
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Oct 7

Here is a classical case of ridiculous Photoshopping meeting the fashion industry meeting corporate bullying: “Last month, Xeni [a boing boing writerer] blogged about the photoshop disaster that is this Ralph Lauren advertisement, in which a model’s proportions appear to have been altered to give her an impossibly skinny body (‘Dude, her head’s bigger than her pelvis’). Naturally, Xeni reproduced the ad in question. This is classic fair use: a reproduction ‘for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting,’ etc. However, Ralph Lauren’s marketing arm and its law firm don’t see it that way. According to them, this is an ‘infringing image,’ and they thoughtfully took the time to send a DMCA takedown notice to our awesome ISP, Canada’s Priority Colo. […] So, to Ralph Lauren, GreenbergTraurig, and PRL Holdings, Inc: sue and be damned. Copyright law doesn’t give you the right to threaten your critics for pointing out the problems with your offerings. You should know better.”
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Oct 7

J. Gilbert Plantinga’s Route 28 is a photographic road trip.
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Oct 6

“The project ‘Disintegration of a Revived Nation’ deals with the urban revolution, manifested in the massive construction of buildings, roads, bridges and all kinds of huge cement structures. Man is gradually reducing nature and neutralizes the past in its path.” - Yaniv Waissa
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Oct 5

My posting of Patrik Budenz’s Post Mortem made Robert Phillips (thank you!) send me the link to Maeve Berry’s Incandescence. The gallery page has larger images and an artier description, but I like the artist’s better: “The images we will never see of ourselves.”
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Oct 5

Patrik Budenz’s Post Mortem (which is not for the queasy!) contains some, well, stunning imagery.
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Oct 5

“Art that engages with popular culture isn’t necessarily any good - in fact, often it’s the opposite” argues Jonathan Jones
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Oct 5

I have no recollection what made me go to see Osang Gwon’s Deodorant Type at Arario Gallery (on view until October 24, 2009), but whatever it was I’m immensely grateful for it. I suppose you would call the work on display sculpture, even though its description (“C-print, Mixed Media”) indicates that something else is going on. But these beyond life size statues are sculpture, and the “C print” refers to the photographs that cover their surface, to give them a photo-realistic and also somewhat disturbing appearance.
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Oct 5

“These photographs depict the lives of my father, sister, and two brothers, as they take on the burden of my mother’s deteriorating mental state.” - Lisa Lindvay
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Oct 2

Despite the fact that the vast majority of people have long moved into the digital age - buying their music online - records are not only still be sold, but even made. Sold mostly in independent record shops, record shops are now frequented by aging vinyl enthusiasts (for whom CDs or - gasp!- mp3s are just the work of the devil) and young hipsters (for whom owning something as ancient as a record player has now become kind of “cool”). In a somewhat similar fashion, second-hand book shops are still around (even though it hasn’t become “hip” or “cool” again to read - and it probably never will).
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Oct 2

In physics, the term power describes the rate at which energy is used or work is done, and the average power is defined as energy divided by time. Dividing energy by time seems like a weird concept, but it makes perfect sense. For all meanings of the word power it is always helpful to think of some sort of energy (electrical, chemical, political, …) being consumed to achieve a desired outcome (blow-dry one’s hair, make the car go to the grocery store, bring about meaningful health-care reform, …). Or put simply, if you don’t have any power you won’t be able to move anything. While a negative definition often is not very useful, in this case it is: While we humans usually only have a somewhat fuzzy idea what it feels like or might mean to have power, everybody knows what it feels like to have no power, whatever the circumstances might be.
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Oct 1

David Leventi’s Romania presents an interesting view of the Eastern European country.
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