Monthly Archives: September 2009

Why am I, a professor of journalism, encouraged to blog, tweet, and engage in public dialog about journalism, but still trusted to speak the “truth,” while journalists are not?

Why am I not required to “relinquish some of the personal privileges of private citizens” in order to do my job well?

Why am I allowed to get up in front of a classroom everyday and teach youngsters how to “do journalism,” while journalists themselves have to give up some of the personal privileges of private citizens?

What is it about journalistic professionalism that demands the monk-like embrace of personal rectitude?

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The Vagrant Light of Stars

The Einstein Tomb project was created as a memorial to the life and work of Albert Einstein, a symbolic structure in the same spirit as Boullee’s Cenotaph to Isaac Newton. Because the self-effacing Einstein—who transformed physics as much as Newton before him—explicitly stated that after his death he wanted no such memorial as a site of veneration, I designed it to be launched into deep space, traveling on a beam of light, never to be seen in terrestrial space and time. However, owing to the gravity-warped structure of space (which Einstein’s greatest work—his theory of gravitation—described) it would return to Earth in sidereal time, an infinite number of times, or at least until the end of time and space at the death of the universe.



Les étranges photos de Vera Lutter


Vera Lutter, à la galerie Xippas (jusqu’au 24 octobre) mérite d’être mieux connue en France. Elle réalise des photos camera obscura de très grand format, la chambre étant en fait un caisson ou un conteneurainer placé in situ et la photographie finale étant aux dimensions mêmes de cette chambre. Le container est positionné devant des paysages urbains ou industriels, l’objectif reste ouvert du matin au soir, et l’image ainsi impressionnée est révélée en général chaque soir. L’artiste se trouve dans le container, observant la lumière qui impressionne le film, réglant la luminosité et prenant des pages et des pages de notes sur son expérience : on pourrait s’approcher de la performance, mais ces notes, jusqu’ici, restent confidentielles, ne sont pas exposées, et le travail de Vera Lutter se veut photographique avant d’être conceptuel.


Walls for Learning

Digging around the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs website a few days ago, I came across a “Percent for Art” project from 1994 by Allan and Ellen Wexler for Public School 340 in the Bronx. The simply titled Drawing P.S. 340 is a “112 foot (34 m) wall mural [that] presents various floor plans and detailed construction drawings based on the actual architectural plans for the school, … elevation drawings of the hallway and variously scaled maps that situate the school in the community, city, and country. ” ()


Water wars loom in a nation of parched fields

A Punjab Government draft water policy published last year said the state’s water resources were being polluted by industrial waste, sewage and excessive pesticide use in agriculture. “This can adversely affect the health of the populace and may cause diseases like cancer, skin diseases and miscarriage cases.”

These reports only confirm what local farmers already know.

According to Vandana Shiva, water shortages could split Indian communities along deeply entrenched divisions of caste and religion. ”What we will start seeing is localised conflicts over water,” she says. ”As livelihoods evaporate, along with water, you will see all sorts of cracks opening up in society.”

Conflict is also possible between India’s majority rural population and its bursting cities. “People with power live in cities and, as the water crisis is deepening, what remains is being increasingly delivered to the cities,” says Shiva.

She is tracking eight major river diversions under way in India to provide cities with more water.



Mamane Barka – The Last Master of the Biram

As a nomad of the Toubou tribe, Malam Mamane Barka is the indisputable son of the desert and the world’s only remaining master of the biram. He maintains the tradition single-handedly, bringing the boat-shaped instrument to world’s attention with his own unique blend of desert blues.

Mamane Barka was born in Tesker, in the eastern part of the Niger Republic, in 1959. He was a teacher for many years before his skills on the ngurumi, a traditional string instrument, made him a celebrated musician in Niger and Nigeria. In 2002, he received a UNESCO scholarship to materialize his dream of reviving the tradition of the biram, an enormous boat-shaped five-string harp. He travelled to Lake Chad to meet the Boudouma, an ethnic group of nomadic fisherman, and their sacred instrument, the biram, which they believe is protected by the spirit of the lake Kargila. At the time Boukar Tar – the only remaining master of the biram – was still alive and he taught Mamane the secrets of the holy instrument and the lyrics of the mystical songs. He then gave Mamane the last biram and asked him to promote it all over the world.

Sadly Boukar Tar has now passed away and Mamane is the only master of the biram in the world. He is maintaining the tradition single-handedly, bringing the instrument to the attention of the wider-world with his own blend of desert blues. With Oumarou’s trance-inducing percussion this album not only pays respect to the spiritual biram, but is also homage to the traditional percussion instruments of the rich Nigerien culture: the douma (the spiritual drum), the kalangou and the calabash.


Maname Barka: This is currently the only video on the web of Maname Barka playing the Biram. Please upload any videos, pictures or information on the ‘Biram’ on the web, as there is currently very little publicly available information on this musical tradition.