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November 11, 2011

Knight Foundation and Mozilla send geeks into newsrooms

Knight Foundation and Mozilla send geeks into newsrooms

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Friday, November 11, 2011

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Developers and designers working together on projects at Mozilla Festival.
Image: Mozilla in Europe.

In London last weekend, journalists, software developers, filmmakers, designers and many others spent time discussing ideas and building tools at the 2011 Mozilla Festival at Ravensbourne College. Following the theme of “Media, Freedom and the Web”, many attendees developed prototypes around the idea of the future of media including tablet interface prototypes for the Boston Globe, designs for open source software for DJs, and hacks to enable journalists to combine video and original source text together to tell stories in more interactive ways.

Software developer Laurian Gridinoc will go and work inside the BBC newsroom.
Image: Mozilla in Europe.

One important announcement made at the event was details of five new fellowship places sponsored by the Knight Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation that attempt to bring together journalists and open source-minded software geeks. Wikinews spoke to Laurian Gridinoc, who currently works at Talis building software for higher education but will move for a year to the BBC to work in the newsroom. Other fellows will be working for The Guardian, Al-Jazeera, the Boston Globe and Zeit Online.

Gridinoc says the Fellowship intends to “introduce innovation in the newsroom by embedding some developers as fellows”. The fellows will collaborate with people within the news organization. They hope to be open about how they are changing the newsroom. Gridinoc says he and the others will “blog about making the news, on how things can be done, and how [open source] tools can be used”, and he specifically will work on trying to increase the use of linked data, a practice already embraced by the BBC. “Adaptive documents” were another area of interest for Laurian: having stories where illustrations and examples dynamically adapt to the particular reader.

According to the fellows speaking as part of a panel discussion, many newsrooms reject the use of open source tools even for producing maps, graphs and infographics.

How journalists adapt to the web was a theme throughout the weekend, with sessions teaching journalists to write HTML and write basic scripts in Ruby to scrape websites, discussions on Creative Commons and what “hacker journalism” entails. One group worked on collaboratively produced handbook on “data journalism” while others tested and refined Ushahidi, a crowdsourced news tool that was used during the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile in 2010 and in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011.



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October 22, 2011

Canadian actress Barbara Kent dies at age 103

Canadian actress Barbara Kent dies at age 103

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

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Barbara Kent (1907 – 2011) in the trailer for Oliver Twist

Barbara Kent, a popular Canadian actress in silent movies who starred in the 1926 film Flesh and the Devil, died on October 13 at the age of 103.

Kent was born Barbara Klowtmann on December 16, 1907 in Gadsby, Alberta, Canada.

She was among the last of the surviving players from the silent film period.

She attracted attention in the 1927 film No Man’s Law by swimming nude; she wore a flesh colored bathing suit in scenes that were considered very daring at the time. She made a smooth transition into talking pictures, opposite Harold Lloyd in the 1929 comedy Welcome Danger.

Over the next few years she landed several roles including one in the 1933 film Oliver Twist – the first non-silent adaptation.

Following the death of her husband in 1949, Kent retreated from public life. She came to refuse to acknowledge her film career and extend very few interviews.



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October 10, 2011

Indian ghazal singer Jagjit Singh dies aged 70

Indian ghazal singer Jagjit Singh dies aged 70

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Monday, October 10, 2011

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File:Jagjit Singh performing at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 12 September 2008.jpg

Jagjit Singh performing at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, England.
Image: Heritage Arts and Events Limited.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Indian ghazal singer Jagjit Singh died today at 8:10 am IST after a brain haemorrhage at the age of 70.

He was admitted to Lilivati Hospital in Mumbai just before a scheduled performance on September 23. Despite surgery, he remained on life support.

Called “The Ghazal King”, he sang in several languages. He also received the Padma Bhushan award. His death was the top story on most Pakistani news agencies’ websites.

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July 29, 2011

National Museum of Scotland reopens after three-year redevelopment

National Museum of Scotland reopens after three-year redevelopment

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Grant Stott, and Bryony Hare opening the museum.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Today sees the reopening of the National Museum of Scotland following a three-year renovation costing £47.4 million (US$ 77.3 million). Edinburgh’s Chambers Street was closed to traffic for the morning, with the 10am reopening by eleven-year-old Bryony Hare, who took her first steps in the museum, and won a competition organised by the local Evening News paper to be a VIP guest at the event. Prior to the opening, Wikinews toured the renovated museum, viewing the new galleries, and some of the 8,000 objects inside.

The Mugenkyo Taiko drummers performing on the museum steps
Street theater for the opening
Animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertaining the crowd
The Mugenkyo Taiko drummers performing on the museum steps
Street theater for the opening
Street theater for the opening
Street theater for the opening
Animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertaining the crowd
Street theater for the opening
The Mugenkyo Taiko drummers performing on the museum steps
Street theater for the opening
Street theater for the opening

Dressed in Victorian attire, Scottish broadcaster Grant Stott acted as master of ceremonies over festivities starting shortly after 9am. The packed street cheered an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex created by Millenium FX; onlookers were entertained with a twenty-minute performance by the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers on the steps of the museum; then, following Bryony Hare knocking three times on the original doors to ask that the museum be opened, the ceremony was heralded with a specially composed fanfare – played on a replica of the museum’s 2,000-year-old carnyx Celtic war-horn. During the fanfare, two abseilers unfurled white pennons down either side of the original entrance.

The completion of the opening to the public was marked with Chinese firecrackers, and fireworks, being set off on the museum roof. As the public crowded into the museum, the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers resumed their performance; a street theatre group mingled with the large crowd, and the animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertained the thinning crowd of onlookers in the centre of the street.

Press preview

A ‘God of the Sea’ carving from the Cook Islands, on display in the World Cultures Galleries.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The newly-opened, vaulted-ceilinged Entrance Hall.
Image: Brian McNeil.

On Wednesday, the museum welcomed the world’s press for an in depth preview of the new visitor experience. Wikinews was represented by Brian McNeil, who is also Wikimedia UK’s interim liaison with Museum Galleries Scotland.

The new pavement-level Entrance Hall saw journalists mingle with curators. The director, Gordon Rintoul, introduced presentations by Gareth Hoskins and Ralph Applebaum, respective heads of the Architects and Building Design Team; and, the designers responsible for the rejuvenation of the museum.

Describing himself as a “local lad”, Hoskins reminisced about his grandfather regularly bringing him to the museum, and pushing all the buttons on the numerous interactive exhibits throughout the museum. Describing the nearly 150-year-old museum as having become “a little tired”, and a place “only visited on a rainy day”, he commented that many international visitors to Edinburgh did not realise that the building was a public space; explaining the focus was to improve access to the museum – hence the opening of street-level access – and, to “transform the complex”, focus on “opening up the building”, and “creating a number of new spaces […] that would improve facilities and really make this an experience for 21st century museum visitors”.

Hoskins explained that a “rabbit warren” of storage spaces were cleared out to provide street-level access to the museum; the floor in this “crypt-like” space being lowered by 1.5 metres to achieve this goal. Then Hoskins handed over to Applebaum, who expressed his delight to be present at the reopening.

Applebaum commented that one of his first encounters with the museum was seeing “struggling young mothers with two kids in strollers making their way up the steps”, expressing his pleasure at this being made a thing of the past. Applebaum explained that the Victorian age saw the opening of museums for public access, with the National Museum’s earlier incarnation being the “College Museum” – a “first window into this museum’s collection”.

The bridge joining the Old College to the museum.
Image: Brian McNeil.

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The museum itself is physically connected to the University of Edinburgh‘s old college via a bridge which allowed students to move between the two buildings.

Applebaum explained that the museum will, now redeveloped, be used as a social space, with gatherings held in the Grand Gallery, “turning the museum into a social convening space mixed with knowledge”. Continuing, he praised the collections, saying they are “cultural assets [… Scotland is] turning those into real cultural capital”, and the museum is, and museums in general are, providing a sense of “social pride”.

The guided tour

View of the Grand Gallery from the south-east corner.
Image: Brian McNeil.

McNeil joined the yellow group on a guided tour round the museum with one of the staff. Climbing the stairs at the rear of the Entrance Hall, the foot of the Window on the World exhibit, the group gained a first chance to see the restored Grand Gallery. This space is flooded with light from the glass ceiling three floors above, supported by 40 cast-iron columns. As may disappoint some visitors, the fish ponds have been removed; these were not an original feature, but originally installed in the 1960s – supposedly to humidify the museum; and failing in this regard. But, several curators joked that they attracted attention as “the only thing that moved” in the museum.

The Millennium Clock, centred in the Discoveries Gallery.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The museum’s original architect was Captain Francis Fowke, also responsible for the design of London’s Royal Albert Hall; his design for the then-Industrial Museum apparently inspired by Joseph Paxton‘s Crystal Palace.

Newly-installed escalator in the Discoveries Gallery.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The group moved from the Grand Gallery into the Discoveries Gallery to the south side of the museum. The old red staircase is gone, and the Millennium Clock stands to the right of a newly-installed escalator, giving easier access to the upper galleries than the original staircases at each end of the Grand Gallery. Two glass elevators have also been installed, flanking the opening into the Discoveries Gallery and, providing disabled access from top-to-bottom of the museum.

History of the Museum

The National Museum of Scotland’s origins can be traced back to 1780 when the 11th Earl of Buchan, David Stuart Erskine, formed the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; the Society being tasked with the collection and preservation of archaeological artefacts for Scotland. In 1858, control of this was passed to the government of the day and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland came into being. Items in the collection at that time were housed at various locations around the city.

On Wednesday, October 28, 1861, during a royal visit to Edinburgh by Queen Victoria, Prince-Consort Albert laid the foundation-stone for what was then intended to be the Industrial Museum. Nearly five years later, it was the second son of Victoria and Albert, Prince Alfred, the then-Duke of Edinburgh, who opened the building which was then known as the Scottish Museum of Science and Art. A full-page feature, published in the following Monday’s issue of The Scotsman covered the history leading up to the opening of the museum, those who had championed its establishment, the building of the collection which it was to house, and Edinburgh University‘s donation of their Natural History collection to augment the exhibits put on public display.

The renovation

A GE 950. The oldest colour television in the world, build to a design by pioneer John Logie Baird.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Grand Gallery on opening day

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Grand Gallery on opening day

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Grand Gallery on opening day

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery
Image: Brian McNeil.

Closed for a little over three years, today’s reopening of the museum is seen as the “centrepiece” of National Museums Scotland’s fifteen-year plan to dramatically improve accessibility and better present their collections. Sir Andrew Grossard, chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “The reopening of the National Museum of Scotland, on time and within budget is a tremendous achievement […] Our collections tell great stories about the world, how Scots saw that world, and the disproportionate impact they had upon it. The intellectual and collecting impact of the Scottish diaspora has been profound. It is an inspiring story which has captured the imagination of our many supporters who have helped us achieve our aspirations and to whom we are profoundly grateful.

The extensive work, carried out with a view to expand publicly accessible space and display more of the museums collections, carried a £47.4 million pricetag. This was jointly funded with £16 million from the Scottish Government, and £17.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Further funds towards the work came from private sources and totalled £13.6 million. Subsequent development, as part of the longer-term £70 million “Masterplan”, is expected to be completed by 2020 and see an additional eleven galleries opened.

The funding by the Scottish Government can be seen as a ‘canny’ investment; a report commissioned by National Museums Scotland, and produced by consultancy firm Biggar Economics, suggest the work carried out could be worth £58.1 million per year, compared with an estimated value to the economy of £48.8 prior to the 2008 closure. Visitor figures are expected to rise by over 20%; use of function facilities are predicted to increase, alongside other increases in local hospitality-sector spending.

Captain Cook’s clock, a Shelton regulator, taken on his first voyage to the Pacific to observe the transit of Venus in Tahiti.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Proudly commenting on the Scottish Government’s involvement Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, described the reopening as, “one of the nation’s cultural highlights of 2011” and says the rejuvenated museum is, “[a] must-see attraction for local and international visitors alike“. Continuing to extol the museum’s virtues, Hyslop states that it “promotes the best of Scotland and our contributions to the world.

So-far, the work carried out is estimated to have increased the public space within the museum complex by 50%. Street-level storage rooms, never before seen by the public, have been transformed into new exhibit space, and pavement-level access to the buildings provided which include a new set of visitor facilities. Architectural firm Gareth Hoskins have retained the original Grand Gallery – now the first floor of the museum – described as a “birdcage” structure and originally inspired by The Crystal Palace built in Hyde Park, London for the 1851 Great Exhibition.

The centrepiece in the Grand Gallery is the “Window on the World” exhibit, which stands around 20 metres tall and is currently one of the largest installations in any UK museum. This showcases numerous items from the museum’s collections, rising through four storeys in the centre of the museum. Alexander Hayward, the museums Keeper of Science and Technology, challenged attending journalists to imagine installing “teapots at thirty feet”.

Galleries and exhibits

The redeveloped museum includes the opening of sixteen brand new galleries. Housed within, are over 8,000 objects, only 20% of which have been previously seen.

The newly-opened, vaulted-ceilinged, ground floor.
The first floor, with the Grand Gallery.
Second floor, including the Ancient Egypt gallery.
Top floor, including the Looking East gallery.

A collection of local signs in the Window on the World; not readily accessible, the red tramways sign may be a sore point with some Edinburgh residents.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Window on the World rises through the four floors of the museum and contains over 800 objects. This includes a gyrocopter from the 1930s, the world’s largest scrimshaw – made from the jaws of a sperm whale which the University of Edinburgh requested for their collection, a number of Buddha figures, spearheads, antique tools, an old gramophone and record, a selection of old local signage, and a girder from the doomed Tay Bridge.

The World Cultures Galleries

The arrangement of galleries around the Grand Gallery’s “birdcage” structure is organised into themes across multiple floors. The World Cultures Galleries allow visitors to explore the culture of the entire planet; Living Lands explains the ways in which our natural environment influences the way we live our lives, and the beliefs that grow out of the places we live – from the Arctic cold of North America to Australia’s deserts.

A display housing musical instruments from around the world, on show in the Performance & Lives gallery.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The adjacent Patterns of Life gallery shows objects ranging from the everyday, to the unusual from all over the world. The functions different objects serve at different periods in peoples’ lives are explored, and complement the contents of the Living Lands gallery.

Performance & Lives houses musical instruments from around the world, alongside masks and costumes; both rooted in long-established traditions and rituals, this displayed alongside contemporary items showing the interpretation of tradition by contemporary artists and instrument-creators.

An interactive tonal matrix, constructed by Portugese-Angolan artist Victor Garna.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The museum proudly bills the Facing the Sea gallery as the only one in the UK which is specifically based on the cultures of the South Pacific. It explores the rich diversity of the communities in the region, how the sea shapes the islanders’ lives – describing how their lives are shaped as much by the sea as the land.

Both the Facing the Sea and Performance & Lives galleries are on the second floor, next to the new exhibition shop and foyer which leads to one of the new exhibition galleries, expected to house the visiting Amazing Mummies exhibit in February, coming from Leiden in the Netherlands.

The Inspired by Nature, Artistic Legacies, and Traditions in Sculpture galleries take up most of the east side of the upper floor of the museum. The latter of these shows the sculptors from diverse cultures have, through history, explored the possibilities in expressing oneself using metal, wood, or stone. The Inspired by Nature gallery shows how many artists, including contemporary ones, draw their influence from the world around us – often commenting on our own human impact on that natural world.

Contrastingly, the Artistic Legacies gallery compares more traditional art and the work of modern artists. The displayed exhibits attempt to show how people, in creating specific art objects, attempt to illustrate the human spirit, the cultures they are familiar with, and the imaginative input of the objects’ creators.

The Natural World Galleries

A range of sea creatures are suspended in the open space, with giant screens showing them in their natural habitat.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The easternmost side of the museum, adjacent to Edinburgh University’s Old College, will bring back memories for many regular visitors to the museum; but, with an extensive array of new items. The museum’s dedicated taxidermy staff have produced a wide variety of fresh examples from the natural world.

The head of the cast life-size T-Rex
Life-size replica of T-Rex
A pair of peacocks fighting
A giraffe shown using his long tongue to forage
The elephant that wouldn't leave; this exhibit stayed in a corner through the renovations

At ground level, the Animal World and Wildlife Panorama’s most imposing exhibit is probably the lifesize reproduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. This rubs shoulders with other examples from around the world, including one of a pair of elephants. The on-display elephant could not be removed whilst renovation work was underway, and lurked in a corner of the gallery as work went on around it.

Above, in the Animal Senses gallery, are examples of how we experience the world through our senses, and contrasting examples of wildly differing senses, or extremes of such, present in the natural world. This gallery also has giant screens, suspended in the free space, which show footage ranging from the most tranquil and peaceful life in the sea to the tooth-and-claw bloody savagery of nature.

The Survival gallery gives visitors a look into the ever-ongoing nature of evolution; the causes of some species dying out while others thrive, and the ability of any species to adapt as a method of avoiding extinction.

A giant centrepiece in the Restless Earth gallery.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Earth in Space puts our place in the universe in perspective. Housing Europe’s oldest surviving Astrolabe, dating from the eleventh century, this gallery gives an opportunity to see the technology invented to allow us to look into the big questions about what lies beyond Earth, and probe the origins of the universe and life.

In contrast, the Restless Earth gallery shows examples of the rocks and minerals formed through geological processes here on earth. The continual processes of the planet are explored alongside their impact on human life. An impressive collection of geological specimens are complemented with educational multimedia presentations.

The more familiar, the “Refreshed Galleries”

Beyond working on new galleries, and the main redevelopment, the transformation team have revamped galleries that will be familiar to regular past visitors to the museum.

Buddha figures sit alongside a gyrocopter in the Window on the World.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Formerly known as the Ivy Wu Gallery of East Asian Art, the Looking East gallery showcases National Museums Scotland’s extensive collection of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese material. The gallery’s creation was originally sponsored by Sir Gordon Wu, and named after his wife Ivy. It contains items from the last dynasty, the Manchu, and examples of traditional ceramic work. Japan is represented through artefacts from ordinary people’s lives, expositions on the role of the Samurai, and early trade with the West. Korean objects also show the country’s ceramic work, clothing, and traditional accessories used, and worn, by the indigenous people.

The Ancient Egypt gallery has always been a favourite of visitors to the museum. A great many of the exhibits in this space were returned to Scotland from late 19th century excavations; and, are arranged to take visitors through the rituals, and objects associated with, life, death, and the afterlife, as viewed from an Egyptian perspective.

A display of Egyptian shabtis, statues thought to act as servants to the dead in the afterlife.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Art and Industry and European Styles galleries, respectively, show how designs are arrived at and turned into manufactured objects, and the evolution of European style – financed and sponsored by a wide range of artists and patrons. A large number of the objects on display, often purchased or commissioned, by Scots, are now on display for the first time ever.

Shaping our World encourages visitors to take a fresh look at technological objects developed over the last 200 years, many of which are so integrated into our lives that they are taken for granted. Radio, transportation, and modern medicines are covered, with a retrospective on the people who developed many of the items we rely on daily.

The Scottish Galleries

What was known as the Museum of Scotland, a modern addition to the classical Victorian-era museum, is now known as the Scottish Galleries following the renovation of the main building.

The modern extension, housing the Scottish Galleries.
Image: Maccoinnich.

This dedicated newer wing to the now-integrated National Museum of Scotland covers the history of Scotland from a time before there were people living in the country. The geological timescale is covered in the Beginnings gallery, showing continents arranging themselves into what people today see as familiar outlines on modern-day maps.

A replica Carnyx war horn being played at the museum opening.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Just next door, the history of the earliest occupants of Scotland are on display; hunters and gatherers from around 4,000 B.C give way to farmers in the Early People exhibits.

The Kingdom of the Scots follows Scotland becoming a recognisable nation, and a kingdom ruled over by the Stewart dynasty. Moving closer to modern-times, the Scotland Transformed gallery looks at the country’s history post-union in 1707.

Industry and Empire showcases Scotland’s significant place in the world as a source of heavy engineering work in the form of rail engineering and shipbuilding – key components in the building of the British Empire. Naturally, whisky was another globally-recognised export introduced to the world during empire-building.

Lastly, Scotland: A Changing Nation collects less-tangible items, including personal accounts, from the country’s journey through the 20th century; the social history of Scots, and progress towards being a multicultural nation, is explored through heavy use of multimedia exhibits.

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July 23, 2011

British painter Lucian Freud dies aged 88

British painter Lucian Freud dies aged 88

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lucian Freud
Image: procsilas.

Lucian Freud, the painter and grandson of the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, died Wednesday at his London home following a short illness. He was 88 years old.

Freud, the elder brother of the late comedic writer and broadcaster Clement Freud, was born in Berlin in 1922 and moved with his family to Britain in 1933 to escape the Nazis. He became a British citizen in 1939. He studied at the Central School of Art, then at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing with Cedric Morris. He also attended Goldsmiths, University of London. After finishing art school, he spent some time in the merchant navy. In 1944, he started exhibiting with a solo showcase at the Alex Reid & Lefevre Gallery.

Cquote1.svg I paint people not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be. Cquote2.svg

In the 1950s, his style changed to exclusively paint portraits and nudes. The process of painting for models was intense: one nude painting took 16 months to complete and Freud demanded her turn up almost every day to pose. His work was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1989, and he was a member of the Order of Merit. Most controversially, he painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II which was described by The Sun newspaper as a “travesty”, and prompted Robin Simon, the editor of the British Art Journal to say that “It makes her look like one of the royal corgis who has suffered a stroke”. He also famously painted the glamour model Kate Moss nude, and was once named one of Britain’s best dressed men in the magazine GQ.

His work has sold for large amounts: Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, sold in 2008 at Christie’s in New York for $33.6 million dollars. In addition, he has had solo shows at some of the most prominent art galleries and museums in the world including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate in London, said of Freud: “The vitality of his nudes, the intensity of the still life paintings and the presence of his portraits of family and friends guarantee Lucian Freud a unique place in the pantheon of late twentieth century art. His early paintings redefined British art and his later works stand comparison with the great figurative painters of any period.”

Freud has at least thirteen children from a series of marriages and affairs: after an affair wth the Bloomsbury Group member Lorna Garman, Freud married her niece Kitty in 1948 and had two children (Annie and Annabel) before ending the marriage four years later. He had an affair with Lady Caroline Blackwood which turned into a marriage in 1953, although that was dissolved in 1957. He also had two children with Bernadine Coverly (Bella Freud, the fashion designer, and the writer Esther Freud), five children with Suzy Boyt, and four children with Katherine Margaret McAdam (Paul Freud, an artist, Lucy Freud, David Freud and Jane McAdam Freud, also an artist).



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June 29, 2011

US Supreme Court rules video games are protected speech

US Supreme Court rules video games are protected speech

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion for the case.
Image: Huebi.

In a 7-2 decision handed down on Monday, the US Supreme Court struck down California’s violent video game law and ruled that video games are protected speech covered by the First Amendment. The California law banned the sale and rental of violent video games to minors.

The underlying question was whether the violence in video games has the ability to affect children more than violence in other media, such as books, movies, plays and other forms of entertainment.

Cquote1.svg Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. Cquote2.svg

—Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said that depictions of violence have never been regulated by the US government. Thus violent videos are not to fall under government control as does pornography but is to be accorded the same First Amendment protections as other forms of entertainment. The sale of violent video games is not to be criminalized and California’s attempt to do so was “unprecedented and mistaken.” Scalia noted, referring to fairy tales, that “the books we give children to read—or read to them when they are younger—contain no shortage of gore.”

Cquote1.svg [T]he books we give children to read—or read to them when they are younger—contain no shortage of gore. Cquote2.svg

—Justice Antonin Scalia

The beginning of the decision states, “Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And ‘the basic principles of freedom of speech…do not vary’ with a new and different communication medium.”

“The most basic principle—that government lacks the power to restrict expression because of its message, ideas, subject matter, or content, Ashcroft v. American Civil Liberties Union, 535 U. S. 564, 573—is subject to a few limited exceptions for historically unprotected speech, such as obscenity, incitement, and fighting words. But a legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech simply by weighing the value of a particular category against its social costs and then punishing it if it fails the test.”

The justices were not convinced by the existing research that the interactive nature of video games pose a greater risk to society because of their interactive nature. None of the results of the existing research put before the court showed that violent games cause violent behavior. “Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively. Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media. Since California has declined to restrict those other media, e.g., Saturday morning cartoons, its video-game regulation is wildly under-inclusive, raising serious doubts about whether the State is pursuing the interest it invokes or is instead disfavoring a particular speaker or viewpoint.”

According to Nadine Kaslow, professor and chief psychologist at Emory University Department of Psychology and Grady Hospital, the evidence regarding the effects of violent video games is mixed. While there is evidence to suggest that exposure of children to violence results in more aggressive and less pro-social behavior, some studies show there is no negative effect, she said. She point out that toy guns were popular and parents monitored whether toy guns were allowed in the home.

This ruling does not prevent private retailers from placing restrictions on their sale of video games. The video game industry currently has its own rating system, much like that used for movies, and educates retailers in using the rating system to prevent minors from buying mature-rated games. According to PC World the industry’s compliance is better than that of other entertainment industries. Further, parental controls have been added to game consoles.

The view of the Entertainment Software Association that a better strategy is the education of parents rather than court battles.



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March 22, 2011

Wikinews interviews 0 A.D. game development team

Wikinews interviews 0 A.D. game development team

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

0 A.D. is a historical, open source, strategy game, published by Wildfire Games. It focuses on the period between 500BC and 500AD. The game will be released in two parts: the first covering the pre-AD period, and the second running to 500AD. With development well underway, Wikinews interviewed the development team.

Video clip of 0 A.D.
Image: Wildfire Games.

Aviv Sharon, a 24-year-old Israeli student responsible for the project’s PR, compiled the below Q&A, which the full team approved prior to publication.

Interview

Wikinews waves Left.pngBaptiste DompsWikinews waves Right.png Could you introduce the development team of 0 A.D. ?

Wikinews waves Left.pngAviv SharonWikinews waves Right.pngWe are Wildfire Games, a group of approximately 15-20 people from around the world developing 0 A.D., a free, open-source game of ancient warfare. Cumulatively, about 100 different people have contributed to 0 A.D. over time. Our ages have ranged from 15 to 65 and our locations range from North America and Europe to India and New Zealand. The contributions to 0 A.D. are coordinated by a team of department heads led by a lead producer, Erik Johansson (feneur), who is 25 years old from Sweden.

Wikinews waves Left.pngBDWikinews waves Right.png Who are the participants ? Salarieds or benevolents ?

Wikinews waves Left.pngASWikinews waves Right.pngAll contributions to 0 A.D. so far have been on a voluntary basis only. To speed up development, however, we have decided to raise enough money to support 160 hours of paid development of the 0 A.D. codebase. We have tentatively selected the team member who will receive this compensation, Philip Taylor (Ykkrosh), but decided to hold off for a few months until we start using these funds to wait until he has more time to dedicate to 0 A.D. development. Otherwise, 0 A.D. development will continue to be voluntary, and all funds donated to 0 A.D. will be used for team expenses only, such as website hosting costs.

A sample fight scene.
Image: Robert Schultz de Plainsboro.

Wikinews waves Left.pngBDWikinews waves Right.png Why did you want to make games?

Wikinews waves Left.pngASWikinews waves Right.pngThere are several different reasons. Originally, 0 A.D. was born out of a desire to innovate within the RTS genre. We felt, and still feel, that this genre has a lot of potential for innovation and we wish to explore that with some different rules. 0 A.D. started out as a total conversion mod for Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, until team members at that time ran into the limitations of changing a closed-source game. Hence, as a wish to break free from the limitations of other games’ engines, the standalone version of 0 A.D. was conceived and its development continues to this day.

Some other reasons include a deep appreciation of ancient history; the wish to improve our skills and be recognized for our talents; and a determination to prove that a group of volunteers collaborating over the internet can make a game that rivals the commercial, proprietary AAA titles.

Wikinews waves Left.pngBDWikinews waves Right.png Why did you choose a free license?

Wikinews waves Left.pngASWikinews waves Right.pngPeople are spending more money, time and attention on playing computer games than ever before, and games are constantly evolving into a more nuanced medium of expression and a greater part of our culture. Just observe how much people play on Facebook and their mobile devices. We think this culture should allow gamers to learn how their games work, change them, share them and redistribute their works. This freedom to tinker is what Free, Open-Source Software (FOSS) is all about and so we hope a lot of people tinker with 0 A.D.

A city, as shown within the game.
Image: Robert Schultz de Plainsboro.

Wikinews waves Left.pngBDWikinews waves Right.png How do you coordinate ? What technical and financial resources has 0 A.D.?

Wikinews waves Left.pngASWikinews waves Right.pngWe mostly coordinate over a forum system we have, as well as a Trac system for task management and technical documentation. We also conduct discussions over IRC (#0ad and #0ad-dev on QuakeNet), that get more concentrated on the weekend, and Saturday afternoon in particular, when we have our weekly meeting.

Wikinews waves Left.pngBDWikinews waves Right.png Which type of participants do you need? ‘Amateurs’ can they participate?

Wikinews waves Left.pngASWikinews waves Right.pngAmateurs can definitely help with tasks like documentation and spreading the word about 0 A.D. For other tasks, we do require some prior knowledge in fields such as software development, 3d animation etc. Our main personnel needs are in three fields: Programmers, artists and sound people. We have many applicants for sound contributors but need a manager to oversee them. For programming we need capable gameplay, AI, sound and graphics programmers, proficient in C++ and/or JavaScript. Finally, in the art department, we could use some more texture artists, 3D artists, animators, and illustrators to draw 2d icons for the game’s user interface.

Wikinews waves Left.pngBDWikinews waves Right.png It’s been 10 years since 0 A.D. is developing, what obstacles have arisen and how have you resolved?

Wikinews waves Left.pngASWikinews waves Right.pngThe biggest obstacle we have run into is underestimating the scale and complexity of an RTS game. When embarking upon this journey in 2001, nobody thought that completing this endeavor would take this long. Evidently, making an RTS game requires a great deal of programming features, art assets and more. And, as we discovered the hard way, the first draft of anything is seldom good enough. For example, one of the most important engine components, named “Simulation”, was simply planned wrong the first time around. Simulation is in charge of changing the state of each entity in the “world” represented in the game, like handling harvesting resources, doing damage to stuff and handling death. Sadly, over time it got implemented in such a haphazard way it devolved into an unstable, unpredictable ball of mud. Debugging became difficult and attracting new programmers from joining the development effort became impossible. Over time, fewer and fewer developers stayed on with 0 A.D. and it seemed as if the project was in grave danger of ending, the way many initiatives on the internet spontaneously do.

An island, with water rendering developed by Matei Zaharia for a school project.
Image: Pais.

Thankfully, one of our programmers, Philip Taylor (Ykkrosh) from the UK, fixed this situation almost singlehandedly over the course of a few months in 2009-2010. Ever since simulation was fixed, it’s been smoother sailing and the pace of development picked up considerably. We have recruited several programmers and are constantly adding new features, most recently a prototype opponent AI, which is a big milestone for us.

Wikinews waves Left.pngBDWikinews waves Right.png What are you proudest of about your game?

We are proud of the way our fans go “wow” over screenshots, in-game videos and their direct experiences with the game. We get comments like, “It’s like Empire Earth, Age of Empires, and Rise of Nations had a baby and it came out free!” and “This can’t be open source. It rocks too much!”. We’re proud we’ve built a community of enthusiasts on our forums, Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere, and continuously generated some buzz around 0 A.D. We hope to justify this hype and lead the project to completion.

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Wikinews waves Left.pngBDWikinews waves Right.png What is the schedule for 2011?

Wikinews waves Left.pngASWikinews waves Right.pngOne big upcoming feature is random map scripting, which allows for much more variety in gameplay without having to manually draw new maps all the time. Our prototype opponent AI is set to get even smarter at all aspects of gameplay, and, with time, will be able to execute any of a variety of strategies to win the game. However, generally speaking, we don’t make long-term plans because they never seem to work out. So far, since August 2010 we have released an alpha version every 70 days on average, and we intend to keep releasing more alpha versions until the game is feature-complete. Then we will enter a beta phase, playtest and fix bugs until a point when we decide the game is done, hopefully sometime in 2012.

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Wikinews
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

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December 18, 2010

Don Van Vliet, best known as \’Captain Beefheart\’, dies aged 69

Don Van Vliet, best known as ‘Captain Beefheart’, dies aged 69

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

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Beefheart in 1974.
Image: “Jean-Luc”.

US avant-garde musician and painter Don Van Vliet — better known by the stage name Captain Beefheart — died Friday aged 69. New York’s Michael Werner Gallery confirmed the cause of death as complications with multiple sclerosis, a condition Van Vliet suffered from for many years.

Born in Glendale, California on January 15, 1941, the highly experimental musician created several unique and influential albums from 1967 through to 1982, backed by a frequently changing group of musicians known as The Magic Band. His most famous album, Trout Mask Replica (1969) melded free jazz, blues-rock, and avant-garde styles to create a critically acclaimed (albeit commercially unsuccessful) work. He retired from music in 1982 to focus on painting.

Whilst none of the albums released by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, including 1967 debut album Safe as Milk, were commercially successful, his work is regularly cited as highly influential. Groups such as The Sex Pistols, Jethro Tull, Hawkwind, and Roxy Music all mention Beefheart as influencing their music.

A childhood friend of Frank Zappa, Beefheart was christened Don Glen Viet, later changing this; and, adopting the stage name of Captain Beefheart at Zappa’s suggestion. Of the dozen albums produced under various lineups of the Magic Band, Trout Mask Replica is placed at number 58 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Despite no formal training, it was under his own name and as a painter, that Van Vliet experienced his greatest commercial success. His first exhibition was in Liverpool, in 1972. In the wake of this he was advised that as a painter he would be unlikely to be taken seriously unless he abandoned his musical career.

He is survived by his wife of over 40 years, Jan Van Vliet.

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August 31, 2010

Rem Koolhaas wins Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement

Rem Koolhaas wins Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Seattle Central Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas
Image: DVD R W.

Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas has been awarded the “Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement” at the opening ceremony of the 12th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, on August 28th. The decision was taken by the Board of the Biennale, upon the proposal of the Director of this year’s exhibition, Kazuyo Sejima. The Board stated that “Rem Koolhaas has expanded the possibilities of architecture. He has focused on the exchanges between people in space. He creates buildings that bring people together and in this way forms ambitious goals for architecture. His influence on the world has come well beyond architecture.” The Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima, who won this year’s Pritzker Prize is the Biennale’s first female director.

Rem Koolhaas is renown as one of the founders of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in 1975, and author of Delirious New York (1978) and S,M,L,XL (1995). Among his most important buildings are the Netherlands Dance Theatre at The Hague, the Nexus Housing at Fukuoka in Japan, the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, the Grand Palais of Euralille in Lille, the Villa dall’Ava in Paris, and the Seattle Public Library. One of his most recent projects is the China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters building in Beijing.

The Board also awarded a special Golden Lion in memory of the Japanese architect, Kazuo Shinohara, who died in 2006. The Golden Lion for the best National Participation was this year awarded to the Kingdom of Bahrain. Located in Venice‘s Arsenal and Giardini, the Biennale will be open until November 21.



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May 20, 2010

Works valued at €100 million stolen from the Musée d\’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Works valued at €100 million stolen from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Picasso’s Le pigeon aux petits pois is amongst the paintings stolen from a Paris museum

Five paintings, in total valued at almost €100 million. were stolen from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris overnight on Wednesday. The works were Le pigeon aux petits pois by Pablo Picasso, La Pastorale by Henri Matisse, L’Olivier Près de l’Estaque by Georges Braque, La Femme a l’Eventail by Amedeo Modigliani and Nature Morte aux Chandeliers by Fernand Léger.

The museum itself has been closed and cordoned off by police investigating the theft. The thief is believed to have entered the museum by climbing through a window and the museum is investigating how the theft took place despite the presence of guards and a complex security system.

Christophe Girard, deputy mayor of Paris with responsibility for culture, told a press conference: “This is a serious crime to the heritage of humanity”, adding that the perpetrator or perpetrators were “obviously organised”. It is thought that the paintings are too well known to be easily sold and there has been speculation that they will be used as “currency” by criminal gangs, as opposed to having been “stolen for hire” on behalf of a collector.

An unnamed source told The Daily Telegraph: “It’s an enormous crime, one of the biggest in art history” while the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, called the theft “an intolerable attack on Paris’s universal cultural heritage” and art historian Tim Marlow commented that the thief obviously “knew what he was taking”.

The theft was discovered at approximately 7a.m. local time (5a.m. UTC) by museum staff. The Paris prosecutor’s office said that a single masked man was captured on CCTV walking away with the works, which had been removed from their frames with care rather than being sliced out. The paintings belong to the museum’s permanent collection.

Investigators are questioning museum staff after speculation that the perpetrator may have had assistance from somebody on “the inside”. The investigation into the thefts is being led by the Brigade de Répression du Banditisme, an elite French police unit.


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