Friday, January 31, 2014

Destroy catchy music before it destroys you
by Ian F Svenonius


When a person walks down the street, an everyday setting might trigger remembrance of a song. As the lyrics convulsively unfold, an association between that moment, memory, and music is revealed; the song, instead of just being some random thought, was actually triggered by some stimuli or situation one had just encountered. Leaving a place might put the song "Leaving Here" or "Go Now" into one's head for example, or perhaps the connection is less obvious. The associative lyric might not even show up 'til the third stanza or fourth verse or something, at which point the singer is wowed by their unconscious brain at work.

Thus is illuminated the ancient use of song and the reason humans are intrinsically programmed to make and like music. Tunes carry or relay ideas, lessons and information from generation to generation and from place to place via memory. Since a bewitching tune stays with one forever–think of the jingles you heard as a child–the information contained in the song is unshakeable. One may choose to reject it, but if its constructed properly, with a good "hook," it will embed itself insidiously and be very hard or even impossible to completely remove. We might not care to "buy the world a coke to teach it harmony," but all who've heard that old commercial will carry its message to the grave.

Songs have had this function since the dawn of time and were the vehicle for social ideology and practical lessons such as: which berries to avoid, where the bears lived, how not to freeze in winter, why not to drink animal urine, etc. Just as important for survival were social lessons, such as the mores and rituals of one's particular tribe, explicated through song-stories. In modern times, these sung social and moral codes include the anthems of a Nation and (in folk songs) the mythology of its working class as well as the myths of its rulers (through courtly and classical music).
Because songs are an extremely powerful form of mind control, music became a highly contested battlefield in the war between various ruling class factions. This struggle was occurring in the 18th and 19th century through opera and symphonic music for example. Teutonic classical music was nurtured by well heeled patrons in the Holy Roman Empire, when the nascent German nation strove to assert a distinct cultural identity. This program contributed eventually to unification under Bismarck. Russian composers before and after the revolution competed with their supremacist "western" counterparts to explain an idea of Russian genius and sophistication, and so on.

Once capitalism became paradigmatic, the mind control properties of the "hook" and the catchy chorus were utilized by a new mercantile ruling class to sell products via "jingles". As the system became more sophisticated, song "hooks" were used to explain products' invaluable nature, the ways which people were inadequate without products, that ownership of products defined happiness itself, and how people without said products were deficient, pathetic, unseemly, grotesque, and sexually undesirable.

When rock n roll revealed itself in the post-war USA, it was immediately recognized for its awesome power and potential for conquering the world. Rock n roll came out of the black American south, but had its roots in ancient African music which had been suppressed by slavers and kept underground for centuries, like druidism in the British isles. Secretly practiced under the guise of "work songs" and "gospel" music, it evolved over time into something quite different from anything in Africa, cunningly constructed as to be almost irresistible to the listener. Having absorbed the obstacles and influences of its new environment, it emerged from its exile with the force of a teenage volcano. European music, Christianity, systemic oppression, electricity, and capitalism were assimilated the way a virus adapts and contorts itself to resist whatever antibodies it encounters. Rock n rolls songs were more powerful, simple, immediate and "hook" laden than any of their competitors and the genre was appraised by the ruling clique as the greatest carriage ever for translating and infiltrating ideological messages.
But they also recognized that this would only be effective if it weren't recognized as a tool. Commercial jingles, jingo-ist anthems, and Soviet agit-prop were tainted because their roots were apparent. Rock n roll in the hands of the ruling class had to retain a semblance of its autonomy and only be insidiously influenced by market programming. Therefore, the artists themselves had to manipulated in a manner where they would conform to desired standards. This was achieved through a barbaric system of arbitrary criticism, institutionalized poverty, degradation of the work force, momentary adoration followed immediately by callous disregard, and the promise of princely rewards and immortality after some undefined act which would be mysteriously deemed world beating.

As rock swept the world, conquering all other arts like a ferocious wild fire, some artists rebelled against its use. Intuitively, they knew "the hook" of a hit song was a kind of mnemonic time bomb which was possibly quite immoral to plant inside listeners heads. Every hit-maker was a typhoid Mary who was instructing their audience as to modes of behavior, right and wrong, sometimes even injecting morbid sociopathy into fans' unwitting brains. The singer's whim, caprice, or perverse sense of humor could unleash unfathomable destruction – socially and geo-politically – through the proliferation of song. Singers were concerned about their influence and tried to rein in their songs "catchiness." Folk singers in the late '50s and early '60s were particular exponents of this approach, trying to sing in obtuse, difficult ways and indulging in hardly listenable olde tyme pre-rock dirges. Jazz musicians, resentful of their use as an international propaganda weapon, made their music unquotable, first with "bop" and then with "free" jazz. But it was a steep price to pay. Any one who took this high road saw their ability to economically survive disintegrate.

Once the folk movement was demolished by the seductive force of electricity (1965), ex-folkies transferred their reluctant use of "the hook" to rock, infusing that medium with their anti sell-out concerns and counter-musicality. But, while in folk "selling out" had had fairly clear connotations, in the context of rock – which had (since it had been called "rock") always been tied to crass commercial proponents and mafia elements – "selling out" was a strange concept. It was never a coherent or delineated political concern as it had been with the crypto commies in the folk movement, who were often involved in activism and civil rights. Instead it became an aesthetic idea. "Selling out" was a sign that a group had crossed an invisible line into commercial vulgarity and was no longer behaving in a "cool," hip, and with-it manner. Sometimes this meant too much musicality; too many "hooks". Sometimes it meant the wrong clothing choices. These standards or rules of comportment radically changed from group to group.
Punk took the rhetoric of folk ("selling out" and "authenticity" were obsessions of both) and, understanding the mind control nefariousness of "the hook," tried to utilize its power to subvert commercialism, imperialism, etc, with anthems of resistance. But while this music tried to subvert the system by aping rock structures with rebellious lyrics, it was barred from mass proliferation by a rigid rock establishment that controlled distribution of records and access to airplay. Eventually it was assimilated into rock and absorbed as another texture.

When more extreme variants of punk, "no wave" and then "hardcore" started, they were – like folk, avant noise, and bop – an attempt to subvert the mass hypnosis of music in general and rock in particular, by being almost unlistenable. The attempt was similar as that attempted decades earlier by Xenakis, Cage, Feldman, and other insurrectionists of the avant "experimental" era. The paradox for the unlistenable groups was that their attempts to thwart mind control through anti-music were more intuitive than articulated, and therefore they were susceptible to bits of musicality creeping in. And when an unlistenable no-wave or HC group added a tease of a tune or melody, they were immediately rewarded with popularity by a well meaning but ignoramus audience who were genetically hard wired to respond to music codes like "hooks" and melody. This response – like human sexual response – was innate and had developed to help the species survive. Now, with "the hook" a slave to commercial forces intent on destroying the world for momentary gain and despotic control, the species paradoxically needed to destroy catchy music for its very survival. This was only sort of understood and never articulated by the actors in the post-punk drama, so the audience – while instinctively loving "the hook" – were still wary of too much musicality. Therefore, HC and no wave existed in a demi-world of "sort-of music" music, tantalizing their audiences with the threat of a song, but rarely delivering.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why hate portrait-oriented video?
Perhaps because of the human field of view

from Boing Boing

Discussion of portrait-oriented video--and the widespread hatred for it--has peaked in the wake of Apple's clever new ad for iMovie, which shows a sullen teen spending all of a family Christmas buried in his iPhone. The twist ending (spoilers!) is that he's been making a family movie. But it cheats a little: though the movie is widescreen, the young videographer is only shown using the phone upright, lest the viewer be tipped-off to his noble purpose.

But why do (most of us, at least) generally prefer landscape-oriented moving images? This has been the debate on Twitter today. On the assumption that it's because of binocular vision on a horizontal plane, I found this interesting paper from NASA detailing its study of human fields of vision.

The above image seems to be the paper's tl;dr moment. A roughly rectangular crop of the field yields a roughly 16:10 aspect ratio -- a common modern widescreen format.

This might explain why landscape-oriented moving images prevailed, but the hatred for portrait video surely also has plenty to do with the fact that video technology is so attuned to landscape production. Shoot portrait, and the chances are you'll have huge black bars either side of a tiny image, crushed into a widescreen video player.

Below, a high-quality, portrait-oriented video, appropriately embedded.

And now in the "Annoyascope" embed that YouTube gives you by default:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pete Seeger

I got to see Pete Seeger perform in person at an Earthday celebration, in Central Park, back in 2009, somehow I managed this one photograph, lucky me . . .

from NPR

Folk Activist Pete Seeger, Icon Of Passion And Ideals, Dies At 94
A tireless campaigner for his own vision of a utopia marked by peace and togetherness, Pete Seeger's tools were his songs, his voice, his enthusiasm and his musical instruments. A major advocate for the folk-style five-string banjo and one of the most prominent folk music icons of his generation, Seeger was also a political and environmental activist. He died Monday at age 94. His grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, said he died of natural causes.

Pete Seeger came by his beliefs honestly. His father, Charles Seeger, was an ethnomusicologist and a pioneering folkorist whose left-wing views got him into trouble at the University of California, Berkeley. Charles Seeger introduced his son to some of the most important musicians of the Depression era — including Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie.

Seeger and Guthrie eventually became fast friends — though they didn't agree on all things — and crisscrossed the country performing together. Seeger said that as early as 1941, they found themselves blacklisted as communists. Seeger actually was a member of the Communist Party in those early days, though he later said he quit after coming to understand the evils of Josef Stalin.

Following World War II and service entertaining the troops, Seeger teamed up with Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman to form the astonishingly successful folk group The Weavers. Ronnie Gilbert said that from the start, Seeger's performances were transcendent — whether you were on stage with him or in the audience.

"You got the sense that he was saying and singing way beyond the moment that he was in, the place that he was in. Alone on a stage in front of thousands of people ... everybody got it, everybody got his passion for music, his passion for being on the stage, making people sing, having people listen to each other's music. He was a passionate person, and that was what people saw. People absorbed his passion and his ideals," Gilbert says.

The Weavers' version of Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene" hit the top of the pop charts in 1950. Other hits followed, including "On Top of Old Smokey," "So Long (It's Been Good to Know You)" and "Wimoweh."

If The Weavers hit an emotional and cultural sweet spot in postwar America, the Red Scare quickly soured it. Seeger refused to answer questions before Congress in 1955 about his political beliefs and associations. He was held in contempt and nearly served a jail sentence before charges were finally dropped in 1962 on a technicality.

But his troubles with Congress finished The Weavers as a major touring and recording group, so Seeger went out on his own again. Shut out of the big gigs, he played coffeehouses, union halls and college campuses to support his family. His wife, Toshi, managed his affairs and raised their children in the cabin they had built in Beacon, N.Y.

He co-founded and wrote for Sing Out, one of the first and most important magazines to grow out of the folk revival. He produced children's songs and books. But his commitment to political and social causes never waned. Seeger sang and marched nationwide for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. As he told NPR in 1971, "Sometimes I think [about] that old saying,'The pen is mightier than the sword.' Well, my one hope is the guitar is gonna be mightier than the bomb."

In 1968 he went local, but, of course, in a big way. Upset at the filth clogging the Hudson River near his home, he spearheaded the building of the Sloop Clearwater, which volunteers sailed up and down the Hudson. Politicians and polluters had to take notice. Seeger, not surprisingly, saw a larger purpose: "Bringing these people together, all these people, is the essential thing, and this is what the Clearwater almost miraculously has started to do on the Hudson," he said.

For all of his social activism, Seeger said more than once that if he had done nothing more than write his slim book How to Play the 5-String Banjo, his life's work would have been complete. Seeger's grandson Tao Rodriguez Seeger plays banjo and performed with his grandfather. He says the paperback, which is chock-full of chords and techniques, is a challenge.

"It's not a thick book but it's thick stuff. He doesn't really explain it too well. It's sort of quick, it's got a little diagram, 'Here's how you do it.' But it's great. It's an awesome resource. I have a copy," Rodriguez Seeger says.

Not just through his books but also through his sheer force of presence, Seeger became a model for younger folk musicians. Singer and songwriter Tom Paxton said he learned invaluable lessons from Seeger about how to reach an audience. "Look 'em in the eye. Make a gesture of inclusion, which he did all the time. And above all, have a chorus," Paxton says. "So I learned from Pete to have something for them to sing."

Bringing people together and getting them to sing out may be one of Pete Seeger's greatest legacies. But when it came to saving the world, Tao Rodriguez Seeger says, his grandfather ultimately seemed to question whether the guitar was mightier than the sword.

"[It] troubled him, troubled him deeply that technology was so advanced but our emotional state was so inadequate to cope, that with a push of a button, in a fit of rage, we could wipe ourselves off the face of the Earth. And he really wanted to fix that and always felt like he failed," Rodriguez Seeger says.

But if Pete Seeger didn't save the world, he certainly did change the lives of millions of people by leading them to sing, to take action and to at least consider his dream of what society could be.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Classic Cold War propaganda cartoon ‘Destination Earth’

from Dangerous Minds

An amazing piece of 1950s oil industry propaganda called Destination Earth tells the story of Colonel Cosmic, a spy from Mars sent to Earth. Martian society, y’see, was one of lockstep conformity and oppression under the hyper-statist rule of authoritarian great leader Ogg, and couldn’t be more obviously an analogue for the Soviet Union. Ogg has sent Colonel Cosmic to Earth to learn how we solved the problem of friction in moving parts, but instead, he learns all about the utopian joys of free markets and the miracle of GASOLINE, THE MOST EFFICIENT MOBILE POWER SOURCE ON EARTH! Naturally, revolution ensues. The squeamish needn’t worry, it’s bloodless.

The short was directed by Carl Urbano, and DM readers of a certain age have seen plenty of his work. As a director for Hanna-Barbera, he worked on shows like Super Friends and Laff-A-Lympics among dozens of others. A collection of his Cold War propaganda is available on DVD, as is—to my surprise—a collection of his petroleum industry work going back as far as the 1930s, and the collection includes Destination Earth. But you can enjoy that one in its entirety right here.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

famed civil rights documentary series, is finally back!
HERE, and on DVD!

Eyes on the Prize is a famed documentary series on the civil rights movement that all but disappeared because of trouble clearing the copyrights to clips of leaders like Martin Luther King for the reissue. Nearly ten years ago, a civil disobedience campaign brought attention to society's loss as a result of this series no longer being available for home and classroom use, and the resulting furore brought the intransigent rightsholders back to the bargaining table, and this indispensable video back from the dead -- you can even buy it on DVD now.
Episode 1 (of 14)

This will be an ongoing Sunday series here on this blog - Thank You PBS!


This episode description:
Awakenings focuses on the catalytic events of 1954-1956. The Mississippi lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till led to a widely publicized trial where a courageous black man took the stand and accused two white men of murder. In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to yield her bus seat to a white man and triggered a yearlong boycott that resulted in the desegregation of public buses. Ordinary citizens and local leaders joined the black struggle for freedom. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was formed. In response, may white southerners closed ranks in opposition to the burgeoning black rights movement. Racial discrimination finally became a political issue.

Heads up from Boing Boing, Thank You.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

Public Enemy's
"It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back"

I've said it once (before almost anyone else) and I'm happy to say it again, it's the "The Greatest Hip-Hop Album of all time" - was the day it was released, and still is to this day.(No, the fact I took the cover photo has nothing to do with it!)

The densely multilayered nature of Nation of Millions cries out for a deconstruction—preferably one that can be imbibed via the ears. Fortunately, on the Solid Steel Radio Show a few months ago, DJ Moneyshot released a remarkably enjoyable hour-long episode that does precisely that. For anyone who loves the album, the show is a singular treat, nothing less than an aural essay on its sources, of which there are many. Civil rights speeches, immortal soul classics, contemporaneous rap gems, and interviews with the likes of Hank Shocklee are all mixed together, Bomb Squad style, into a delightful stew.

Thanks, Dangerous Minds

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Why birds fly in a V formation

Why do birds fly in a "V" formation? Scientists at the UK's Royal Veterinary College attached sensors to endangered ibises migrating from Austria to Tuscany. What they confirmed is that the aerodynamics of V flocking helps the birds conserve energy and that they optimize this by careful positioning and timing their wing flaps. "Precision formation flight astounds scientists" (Nature)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"No-No A Dock-umentary"
premiering at Sundance Film Festival this week

For those of you who have been following me or this blog for a while you should be familiar with my connection to the one and only, Dock Ellis. If not you can go back and read some of my previous Dock related posts.

So the film I have been consulting on finally went public night before last and is playing a few more times this week out at The 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The 1st review that came in gave it a 9 out of 10! Also got a nice mention in Esquire magazine as one of the top films to see at Sundance this year, as well as a nod in Entertainment Weekly... So it's off to a good start. A cool film that does some justice to the story of an old friend who inspired me greatly before I was even a teenager. Check it out if you can and let us know what you think.


please download these images and spread 'em around (art by Ernesto Yerena)

The story of the pitcher who threw a no-hitter while tripping on acid—known by fans and nonfans alike—has become emblematic of professional baseball’s excess in the 1970s. However, that pitcher, Dock Ellis, had a career and a life that transcended one use of LSD.

During a time when the insular world of baseball was clashing with the world outside, Ellis was widely known as one of the most unabashedly black baseball players ever. Nearly suspended for wearing curlers in his hair and refusing to apologize for or moderate his aggressive behavior, Ellis used drugs to hide his crippling fear of failure.

No No: A Dockumentary provides the backstory to an outrageous anecdote by presenting the full life—warts and all—of a unique baseball player and human being. From Jackie Robinson to Donald Hall, Ron Howard, and others, Dock Ellis touched the lives of many people, as told in this surprising story of redemption.
Cast and Credits
Director: Jeffrey Radice
Producers: Mike Blizzard, Christopher Cortez, Jeffrey Radice
Cinematographer: John Fiege
Editor: Sam Wainwright Douglas
Music Supervisor: Randall Poster
Composer: Adam Horovitz [YES! our boy AdRock!]
Animators: Jen Piper, Jake Mendez, Scott Calonico
Contact: Sara Sampson / Sara Sampson PR /

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Healthy Is the New Gangsta:
An Interview With Dead Prez's Stic

from The Huffington Post

Rap and health consciousness may not seem like a natural duo, but for Khnum Ibomu, or Stic -- best known as half of the rap group Dead Prez -- promoting a healthy lifestyle is a natural extension of the themes of political activism, social justice and personal motivation that run through his music. In a recent HuffPost blog, 7 Ways to Eat Good on a Hood Budget, he laid out tips for eating healthy without breaking the bank. I talked to Stic about how he became interested in the holistic lifestyle -- and why "healthy is the new gangsta."

Seamus: In your piece, you say you don't have to break the bank to eat healthy. But what about the argument that you can feed a family dinner at a fast food place for twenty dollars?

Stic: Well, you know, I understand that. Coming from the hood, coming from low-income and no-income communities, I understand that that seems like the logical thing to do. Yeah, you can feed a family of four for twenty bucks on fast food for one night, but you can take that same twenty dollars and get vegetables and fruits and make soups and salads -- and different snacks, raisins and nuts -- for the week, or at least a few days. And it's healthy food.

Most people know you as a musician and an activist, but there are probably people who don't know about the health, fitness and food side. How'd you become interested in this stuff?

I came down with a condition called gout, in my leg. Basically, I was living the young rapper's life: smoking weed, drinking, eating whatever was at the fast food restaurant. And one day I woke up with gout. In a nutshell, my wife helped me heal by introducing me to a vegan lifestyle and from there I wanted to get use of my leg back -- so I took up kung fu.

I always say having gout in my early 20s was a blessing in disguise... but I don't want it again [laughs].

We know from stats that poorer areas have worse access to healthy food -- and more access to convenience stores and fast food.

The thing about it is that in those communities -- what a lot of people have started to call food deserts -- you tend to get what's convenient. You get what you have a taste for, from the chemical addiction in these things. That's a whole other level of how these fast food products wreak havoc on people -- in terms of the obesity epidemic and heart disease and all these things.

You make an interesting point in your piece, where you say, We have to spend less money on alcohol, video games, TV, cigarettes. To what extent do lifestyle changes have to do with choices -- versus structural changes, like no access to healthy food?

I'm an advocate of bottom-up and top-down. So I think that we have personal levels of responsibility over what we can do to educate ourselves to resist the culture of disease and addiction. But then we have social responsibility. As an artist, we have a unique place in that because we help articulate and create the inspiration, the interest, the intrigue, into some of these things happening.

Throughout your music, you've dropped in themes of health. Maybe what people know best is the 2000 song "Be Healthy." That didn't feel mainstream then. How much has that awareness changed?

It's changed dramatically, man. The Workout is the first ever hip-hop album to be authentically hip-hop, artistically, but to have the theme of every track promoting health and wellness. People like KRS-One before us has classics like the song "Beef" about the beef industry. And he was an educator and he inspired groups like us to come about.

Is our society doing a good job of getting the word out about health?

I feel like there's plenty of information out there -- we live in the information age. You have to ask yourself, "What's the missing ingredient?" I think there's an element of the internal motivation of the person that has to be addressed -- through the arts and through creative marketing and media -- to get people excited again. I still want to see a sitcom about a vegan family.

That'd be radical.

[Laughs] Yeah, but it's coming.

You've always been part activist and part artist. Do you think that all artists should be activists by definition?

I think all artists are activists. It's just a question of, "What are we activating?" Every song, every movie, everything that we create, reinforces an idea. It reinforces a world view.

To an extent you've placed yourself outside, or against, the big corporate labels.

I can understand why you say that. I try to position myself as to what I'm for, not what I'm against. I love hip hop. Hip hop is my lifestyle, it's my culture. But what I try to do is revolutionize it. Keep the aggression, keep the confidence, keep the innovation, the creativity, the slang, the expression, but add content that is positive.

Are you working on new music?

Yeah, I'm working on the follow-up to my album The Workout -- The Workout: Vol. 2. And I'm producing other things in the works.

I just read an article by David Byrne [of the Talking Heads]. He was talking about Spotify and the changing culture around online music.

Right on, yeah, I like David Byrne's book, How Music Works. That's a good read. I definitely have been more economically sustainable and successful by moving my career beyond the plantation of the big five record companies that we was tossed around in.

In the song "Be Healthy," I said "my goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy." I joke and say, "But my goal in business is." So for me, what I advocate to artists, what I advocated in my book The Art of MCing, is be your own boss. Be your own business. So that you don't have to go to a company that pretty much is designed to tell you what is standard -- which basically means you're sharecropping.

Can the rules to being a successful MC be applied in the kitchen?

I'm probably a much better MC than I am a chef... but I get down. I think an MC is open-minded and studies a lot -- so that you have something to say and have perspective that can be interesting or shed some light. And I think a chef has an open palate, and is interested in how all the elements of cooking create this art that we taste. And you have to have tough skin -- because everything you create musically ain't gonna hit and everything you make in the kitchen is not gonna be a gourmet masterpiece.

You mentioned that your wife introduced you to cooking--

Her philosophy on food has become mine. She's a creative artist. She's an inspiration. She's an educator of nutrition and she's open-minded, so she introduced me to cuisines I would never try.

Like what?

Broccoli. Brussels sprouts. Sushi rolls. All the greens -- we eat greens for breakfast and that's not a normal thing in the standard American diet but for our household that's the norm.

If you had to have one spice, what would you go with?

Can I have a tie? It would be smoked paprika and garam masala.

It's hard not to be inspired by your message. But based on the epidemic health problems our country has, do you ever feel doomed about it?

Absolutely I don't feel frustrated or demoralized or intimidated. I've seen so many positive results, it's impossible to not know we can whip this thing. My mom beat diabetes on a plant-based diet. These things are real. We always say in the hip hop community, "Real recognize real." And when we see that sipping syrup and poppin' Molly results in poor health and a loss of opportunity -- and we see somebody else drinking green juices and running and enjoying life to the fullest -- real gonna recognize real.

One of Dead Prez's best known albums is Revolutionary But Gangsta. How is that concept relevant to the holistic lifestyle?

I feel that advocating health is a revolutionary act. It's a form of activism. In fact, we need to bring being active back to activism -- and moving back to the movement. You know, literally. I'm much more centered and grounded spiritually than when I was carrying pistols in the streets. We don't forget where we come from but we also don't forget where we're going.

"Healthy is the new gangsta" is the tag line for RGB Fit Club, a health movement you've created. What do you mean by that?

Gangsta as a term is really just a way to describe something that is really fresh or strong or magnetic -- it's like another word for saying "that's dope" or "that's fly." For me, I wanted to put it in the context of health. What's more gangsta than health? What's more gangsta than feeling good?
need i remind you?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Pipeline winter is here...
some cool aerial views

from the videographer:
All shots were on the North Shore of Oahu, Pipeline.
More winter swells to come!
For more videos check out my Instagram:
Music: Lindsey Stirling - Crystalize.
To buy quadrocopters visit

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark

A PBS special from 1981, directed by Phillip David Schuman, featuring candid on set scenes featuring Steven Spielberg directing and other behind the scenes footage with stars Harrison Ford and Karen Allen and producer George Lucas.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Fun facts about the mosquito
The loathsome, lethal mosquito

Everyone hates mosquitos. Besides the annoying buzzing and biting, mosquito-borne diseases like malaria kill over a million people each year (plus horses, dogs and cats). And over the past 100 million years, they've gotten good at their job -- sucking up to three times their weight in blood, totally undetected. So shouldn't we just get rid of them? Rose Eveleth shares why scientists aren't sure.
Lesson by Rose Eveleth, animation by Karrot Animation.

thanks, Boing Boing

Friday, January 17, 2014

Scientists have found that memories may be passed down through generations in our DNA


New research from Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, has shown that it is possible for some information to be inherited biologically through chemical changes that occur in DNA. During the tests they learned that that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences – in this case a fear of the smell of cherry blossom – to subsequent generations.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


from Dangerous Minds:


This irrational and improbable thing actually happened: a comic strip titled Inside Woody Allen - starring the man himself - was syndicated by King Features from 1976 to 1984. Created and drawn by Stuart Hample of later Children’s Letters to God fame, the strip was based on Allen’s familiar persona—the angsty, neurotic, Jewish everyman if every man was a cripplingly overanalytical disaster—and it still got printed in daily newspapers for eight years!

Hample recalled the process of working with Allen in the anthology Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip, excerpted in 2009 by The Guardian:

I had a lightbulb epiphany. It occurred to me that Woody might make a terrific comic strip. But how would he – 39 and by now wildly successful – react? I ran a test scene in my head. Me: “Woody, I have an idea for a comic strip based on you. Possible?” Woody: “Sorry. Up to my neck writing a movie, editing another movie. Writing a piece for The New Yorker. Don’t need the money. Try me next year.”

So I asked him in person. Woody was intrigued enough to say: “Show me some sketches.” I based my drawings on how he looked in his late 20s, when we’d first met. He OK’d the Woody cartoon character (he even had it animated for a sequence in Annie Hall) and said: “What about the jokes?” I brought jokes. He looked through them. “Maybe,” he said, “I could help you with the jokes.”

Assuming he was offering to write them, I wanted to shout: “My saviour!” Instead, I said: “OK.” Which was more appropriate, since his help turned out to be dozens of pages of jokes from his standup years. Some were mere shards, such as “tied me to Jewish star – uncomfortable crucifixion”. Others were even more minimal: “bull fighting”, “astrology” (Woody occasionally translated these hieroglyphs).

But there were longer notations: “Sketch – man breaking up with female ape after his evolution.” And there were little playlets: “Freud could not order blintzes. He was ashamed to say the word. He’d go into an appetiser store and say, ‘Let me have some of those crepes with cheese in the middle.’ And the grocer would say, ‘Do you mean blintzes, Herr Professor?’ And Freud would turn all red and run out through the streets of Vienna, his cape flying. Furious, he founded psychoanalysis and made sure it wouldn’t work.”

A newspaper syndicate agreed to publish the feature. They requested six weeks of sample strips. I went each Saturday to Woody’s Fifth Avenue penthouse, where he judged the material and offered suggestions on how to develop characters and pace gags, and pleaded with me to maintain high standards. On 4 October 1976, the strip was launched. Woody, the pen-and-ink protagonist, was angst-ridden, flawed, fearful, insecure, inadequate, pessimistic, urban, single, lustful, rejected by women. He was cowed by mechanical objects, and a touch misanthropic. He was also at odds with his antagonistic parents; committed his existential panic to a journal; had regular sessions with his passive-aggressive psychotherapist; was threatened by large, often armed, men; and employed his modest size to communicate physical impotence the way Chaplin, in the guise of the Little Tramp, suffered humiliation.

I often wondered why Woody gave the concept a green light. In 1977, he related the following anecdote. He had cast the actress Mary Beth Hurt in his movie Interiors. Hurt regularly phoned her mother in Iowa to reassure her that she was safe and happy. During one of those calls, she proudly announced that she was going to play Diane Keaton’s sister in a movie “by somebody you probably haven’t heard of, a director named Woody Allen”. “I know about him,” said her mother, “he’s in the funny pages.” Woody’s manager figured it was no bad thing if his image was disseminated daily out in the heartland.











Read those again, and check out this small online gallery of strips, keeping in mind that these ran in the daily funnies. Children in the late 1970s and early 1980s were seeing gags about the dead bluebird of happiness alongside Marmaduke and The Family Circus. There are plenty of reasons that Gen X turned out so messed up, but might this strip be in that mix? Could this have been a contributor to our baffling consumption of shitty angst-rock and Fruitopia?

That’s probably an overreach, sure, but still, that’s pretty damn advanced matter for the funnypapers.

Much of that angst was attributable to Allen’s participation - and was of course necessitated by obeisance to his stand-up persona - but the most notable gag writer for the strip was David Weinberger, who later went on to a career as an online marketing guru, best known for his Cluetrain Manifesto and Small Pieces Loosely Joined. Interesting how Hample and Weinberger, the auteurs behind arguably the most openly neurotic and fussily intellectual daily comic strip ever syndicated in the United States went on to greater fame for such square stuff! I suppose angst is a less reliable cash generator than cute kids and formulae for success. So it goes.

Upon the 2009 release of Dread and Superficiality (not the only anthology of the strip, by the way, just the only one widely available presently), Hample appeared with Dick Cavett to talk about Allen and the strip at the fantastic NYC bookstore The Strand. There’s video, in five parts. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.

For another amusing sample of Allen in an unexpected medium, check out this footage of him appearing opposite Nancy Sinatra on the game show Password in 1965.




Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read


A user posed the question to Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?”

Below, you will find the book list offered up by the astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, and popularizer of science. Where possible, we have included links to free versions of the books, all taken from our Free Audio Books and Free eBooks collections. Or you can always download a professionally-narrated book for free from Details here.

If you’re looking for a more extensive list of essential works, don’t miss The Harvard Classics, a 51 volume series that you can now download online.

1.) The Bible (eBook) - “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”

2.) The System of the World by Isaac Newton (eBook) – “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.”

3.) On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”

4.) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (eBookAudio Book) – “to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.”

5.) The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (eBookAudio Book) – “to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”

6.) The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”

7.) The Art of War by Sun Tsu (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”

8.) The Prince by Machiavelli (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it.”

Tyson concludes by saying: “If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”

He has also added  some more thoughts in the comments section below, saying:

Thanks for this ongoing interest in my book suggestions. From some of your reflections, it looks like the intent of the list was not as clear as I thought. The one-line comment after each book is not a review but a statement about how the book’s content influenced the behavior of people who shaped the western world. So, for example, it does no good to say what the Bible “really” meant, if its actual influence on human behavior is something else. Again, thanks for your collective interest. -NDTyson

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Some incredible time lapse photography from Earth

This film follows the ancient cycle of sunset, to night, to sunrise. A continuous loop of perpetual movement that has been unbroken since the dawn of time, and the only true constant in our lives.

[Below] Photographer Ron Risman taught a group of newbies how to create timelapse photography. Here are the dramatic results of the four-day workshop.

Moab, Utah is not only home to hundred's of natural arches, it's also home to incredibly dark skies - making it an ideal spot to capture footage of the night sky. In October 2013 a group of photographers got together for a workshop event called Timelapse Moab, where they learned how to capture timelapses and more importantly, timelapses of the night sky.

thanks, Boing Boing

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Future of Life on Earth and Capitalism: Are they compatible?

from our friend Richard Metzger at Dangerous Minds

Scientist and Canadian broadcaster David Suzuki’s environmental non-profit foundation works to “design a vision of Earth in which humans live within the planet’s productive capacity.” He’s got a very direct and simple way of explaining what that means, particularly in relation to exponential population growth in a 2010 video that’s only just started to be discovered and passed around.

If you understand the concept of how “compound interest” works, and have even slightly more than half a brain in your head, be prepared to have a deflating “Oh shit…” moment when he gets to the not so amusing punchline.

No matter what your political persuasion might be, there is nothing to gloat over here, I can assure you. Nothing at all!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Unseen Alfred Hitchcock Holocaust documentary ‘Memory of the Camps’ to be released

from the Guardian via The Raw Story

The ‘disturbing’ film, made in 1945 and withheld, was restored by the Imperial War Museum
An Alfred Hitchcock documentary about the Holocaust which was suppressed for political reasons is to be screened for the first time in the form its director intended after being restored by the Imperial War Museum, reports the Independent.

Hitchcock was asked to assemble footage shot by a British army film unit cameraman of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. But the resulting documentary, which had been commissioned in an attempt to inform and educate the German populace about the atrocities carried out by the Nazis in their name, was ultimately held back.

It was not shown at all until 1984, in an incomplete version at the Berlin film festival, and was missing a sixth reel and in poor quality when it was screened on the PBS network in the US a year later. Now the film, retrospectively titled Memory of the Camps, is to finally see the light of day in a format Hitchcock would have approved of.

[The following is the 5-reel version of Hitchcock’s documentary. Warning: the film contains horrific and disturbing images, which may not be suitable viewing for all.]

[here is the incomplete version that aired on PBS]

“It was suppressed because of the changing political situation, particularly for the British,” Dr Toby Haggith, senior curator at the Department of Research for the Imperial War Museum told the Independent. “Once they discovered the camps, the Americans and British were keen to release a film very quickly that would show the camps and get the German people to accept their responsibility for the atrocities that were there.”

Haggith said test screenings had left colleagues, experts and film historians extremely disturbed. The film’s narration, which has been re-recorded with a new actor, features descriptions of “sightseers” at a “chamber of horrors”.

“The digital restoration has made this material seem very fresh,” said Haggith. “One of the common remarks was that it [the film] was both terrible and brilliant at the same time.”

The film is due to be shown on British television in 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Europe. It will be accompanied by a new documentary from Andre Singer, a producer on the acclaimed 2013 film The Act of Killing, which has topped a number of critical best of the year lists including the Guardian’s. Both films will be shown at film festivals and cinemas later this year.

from Dangerous Minds:

It is claimed Alfred Hitchcock was so traumatized after viewing footage of the liberation of the Belsen-Bergen concentration camp that the legendary film director stayed away from Pinewood Film Studios for a week.

Hitchcock had been enlisted by friend and patron, Sidney Bernstein to make a documentary on German atrocities carried out during the Second World War. The director was to use footage shot by British and Soviet film units during the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. The material was so disturbing that Hitchcock’s complete film has rarely been seen. Speaking to the Independent newspaper, Dr Toby Haggith, Senior Curator at the Department of Research, Imperial War Museum, said:
“It was suppressed because of the changing political situation, particularly for the British. Once they discovered the camps, the Americans and British were keen to release a film very quickly that would show the camps and get the German people to accept their responsibility for the atrocities that were there.”
According to Patrick McGilligan in his biography Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light:
[Hitchcock met] with two writers who had witnessed the atrocities of Bergen-Belsen first-hand. Richard Crossman contributed a treatment, while Colin Wills, an Australian correspondent, wrote a script that relied heavily on narration.

The director had committed himself to the project early enough to give Hitchcockian instructions to some of the first cameramen entering the concentration camps. Hitchcock made a point of requesting “long tracking shots, which cannot be tampered with,” in the words of the film’s editor, Peter Tanner, so that nobody could claim the footage had been manipulated to falsify the reality. The footage was in a newsreel style, but generally of high quality, and some of it in color.


The footage spanned eleven concentration camps, including Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Buchenwald, Ebensee, and Mathausen. The filmmakers ended up with eight thousand feet of film and newsreel, some of it shot by allied photographers, the rest of it impounded. It was to be cut and assembled into roughly seven reels.

Hitchcock watched “all the film as it came in,” recalled Tanner, although the director “didn’t like to look at it.” The footage depressed both of them: the piles of corpses, the staring faces of dead children, the walking skeletons. The days of looking at the footage were long and unrelievedly grim.
In the end, the planned film took Hitchcock and his team much longer than anticipated, and when it was delivered, the perceived opinion was the documentary would not help with Germany’s postwar reconstruction. Despite protests from Bernstein and Hitchcock, the documentary was dumped and five of the film’s six reels were deposited at the Imperial War Museum, where they were quietly forgotten.

Some later thought Hitchcock’s claims of making a Holocaust documentary were mere flights of fancy, that was until 1980, when an American researcher discovered the forgotten five reels listed as “F3080” in the Museum’s archives. These were screened at the Berlin Film Festival in 1985, and this incomplete and poor quality version was then shown on PBS under the title Memory of the Camps, with its original commentary by Crossman and Wills, narrated by Trevor Howard.

Now, the Imperial War Museum has painstakingly restored all six reels according to Hitchcock’s original intentions. This has led to some “wariness” over seeing the documentary as a “Hitchcock film” rather than as an important and horrific record of Nazi atrocities.

Haggith, who worked as an advisor on the project, has said the film is “much more candid” than any previous Holocaust documentary, and has described it as “brilliant” and “sophisticated.”
“It’s both an alienating film in terms of its subject matter but also one that has a deep humanity and empathy about it. Rather than coming away feeling totally depressed and beaten, there are elements of hope.

“We can’t stop the film being incredibly upsetting and disturbing but we can help people understand why it is being presented in that way.

“Judging by the two test screenings we have had for colleagues, experts and film historians, what struck me was that they found it extremely disturbing.

“When you’re sitting in a darkened cinema and you’re focusing on a screen, your attention is very focused, unlike watching it on television… the digital restoration has made this material seem very fresh. One of the common remarks was that it [the film] was both terrible and brilliant at the same time.”
Work on Hitchcock’s documentary is almost complete, and the film (with as yet to be announced new title) will be shown on British TV in early 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the “liberation” of Europe. The film will also be screened at film festivals and in the cinema.

Lest we forget... sometimes I worry as the very last people who remain alive from this era pass, that human consciousness of this unbelievable horror will fade and be forgotten for what it actually was, grateful these actual films exist ...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Fascinating Story of Why U.S. Parks Are Full of Squirrels

from Gizmodo:

In most American cities, it's hard to walk through a park without spotting a gray squirrel. Those bushy-tailed little buggers are everywhere, chomping on nuts and climbing up trees—but not thanks to nature. No sir. They're there because we put them there to entertain us—among other things.

As a new paper published the Journal of American History by a professor at the University of Pennsylvania named Etienne Benson explains, the story of America's squirrels goes back to the early 19th century. At that point in time, squirrels were just another animal running around the woods, mainly useful as a source of food for frontiersmen. If you saw a squirrel in the city, it was almost certainly being kept as a pet. One escaped pet squirrel in New York City, circa 1856, drew a crowd of hundreds according to one of the city papers—which called the squirrel an "unusual visitor."

Around the same time, a sea change in our relationship with squirrels was already underway in Philadelphia. The city had released three squirrels in Franklin Square in 1847 and had provided them with food and boxes for shelter—and the people loved it. One visitor is quoted as saying "it was a wonder that [squirrels] are not in the public parks of all great cities." In the years that followed, the trend spread to Boston and New Haven, where squirrels soon grew so fat from humans feeding them that they were falling out of the trees. Cities even started planting nut-bearing trees so that the squirrels would have their own food source.

The squirrel fad really took off in the 1870s, thanks to Frederick Law Olmstead's expansive parks. Benson says that the movement to fill the parks with squirrels "was related to the idea that you want to have things of beauty in the city, but it was also part of a much broader ideology that says that nature in the city is essential to maintaining people's health and sanity, and to providing leisure opportunities for workers who cannot travel outside the city." These squirrels were possibly the only wildlife the workers would ever see.

Central Park led the way in the second wave of squirrels introduced into American cities. A small number of squirrels planted in the park in 1877 soon grew into a sizable population. By the time it had reached an estimated 1,500 squirrels six years later, authorities even talked about culling the population so that it didn't get out of control. At the same time, squirrel populations were growing around the country, with squirrels gracing the lawns of both Harvard Yard and Washington D.C.'s National Mall.

Feeding the squirrels became a past time during these years, and was eventually seen by naturalists and conservationists as a way to help humans learn how to better treat animals. It wasn't just confined to parks at this point, either. There are many accounts from the late 19th century of people in the suburbs feeding squirrels. Ernest Thompson Seton, who helped found the Boy Scouts, even wanted to use feeding squirrels as a way "to cure boys of their tendency toward cruelty."

So next time you see a squirrel in the park, drink it in. (Not literally of course—one should never drink squirrels.) These little critters were put there for your entertainment. But perhaps more importantly, they were put there to remind us of how man and nature must get along, even if it takes a little effort. Though honestly, how much effort does it take to throw a squirrel an acorn? [Journal of American History]

Image via Getty / Flickr / Dave Williss

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mandela has been sanitized by hypocrites and apologists

from the Guardian (11 December 2013)

Nelson Mandela is greeted by Fidel Castro on a visit to Cuba in 1991. Photograph: Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images

The ANC liberation hero has been reinvented as a Kumbaya figure in order to whitewash those who stood behind apartheid
We have now had a week of unrelenting beatification of Nelson Mandela by exactly the kind of people who stood behind his jailers under apartheid. Mandela was without question a towering historical figure and an outstanding hero of South Africa's liberation struggle. So it would be tempting to imagine they had been won over by the scale of his achievement, courage and endurance.

For some, that may be true. For many others, in the western world in particular, it reeks of the rankest hypocrisy. It is after all Mandela's global moral authority, and the manifest depravity of the system he and the African National Congress brought to an end, that now makes the hostility of an earlier time impossible to defend.

So history has had to be comprehensively rewritten, Mandela and the ANC appropriated and sanitised, and inconvenient facts minimised or ignored. The whitewashed narrative has been such a success that the former ANC leader has been reinvented and embraced as an all-purpose Kumbaya figure by politicians across the spectrum and ageing celebrities alike.

But it's a fiction that turns the world on its head and obscures the reality of global power then and now. In this fantasy, the racist apartheid tyranny was a weird aberration that came from nowhere, unconnected to the colonial system it grew out of or the world powers that kept it in place for decades.

In real life, it wasn't just Margaret Thatcher who branded Mandela a terrorist and resisted sanctions, or David Cameron who went on pro-apartheid lobby junkets. Almost the entire western establishment effectively backed the South African regime until the bitter end. Ronald Reagan described it as "essential to the free world". The CIA gave South African security the tipoff that led to Mandela's arrest and imprisonment for 27 years. Harold Wilson's government was still selling arms to the racist regime in the 1960s, and Mandela wasn't removed from the US terrorism watch list until 2008.

Airbrushed out of the Mandela media story has been the man who launched a three-decade-long armed struggle after non-violent avenues had been closed; who declared in his 1964 speech from the dock that the only social system he was tied to was socialism; who was reported by the ANC-allied South African Communist party this week to have been a member of its central committee at the time of his arrest; and whose main international supporters for 30 years were the Soviet Union and Cuba.

It has barely been mentioned in the past few days, but Mandela supported the ANC's armed campaign of sabotage, bombings and attacks on police and military targets throughout his time in prison. Veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC's armed wing, emphasise that the military campaign was always subordinate to the political struggle and that civilians were never targeted (though there were civilian casualties).

But as Ronnie Kasrils, MK's former intelligence chief, told me on Wednesday, Mandela continued to back it after his release in 1990 when Kasrils was running arms into South Africa to defend ANC supporters against violent attacks. And there's no doubt that under today's US and British law, he and other ANC leaders would have been jailed as terrorists for supporting such a campaign.

One of the lessons of Mandela and the ANC's real history is that the cold war wasn't just about capitalism and communism – or freedom and dictatorship, as is now often claimed – but also about colonialism and national liberation, in which the west was unmistakably on the wrong side.

South Africa wasn't an anomaly. The brutal truth is that the US and its allies backed dictatorships from Argentina and Greece to Saudi Arabia, while Soviet support allowed peoples from Vietnam to Angola to win national independence. Cuban military action against South African and US-backed forces at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola in 1988 gave a vital impetus to the fall of the racist regime in Pretoria.

That's one reason why Mandela was a progressive nationalist, and Raul Castro, the Cuban president, spoke at Tuesday's celebration of Mandela's life in Soweto, not David Cameron. And why the man Barack Obama called the "last great liberator of the 20th century" was outspoken in his opposition to US and British wars of intervention and occupation, from Kosovo to Iraq – damning the US as a "threat to world peace", guilty of "unspeakable atrocities".

Such statements have barely figured in media tributes to Mandela this week, of course. The enthusiasm with which Mandela has been embraced in the western world is not only about the racial reconciliation he led, which was a remarkable achievement, but the extent of the ANC's accommodation with corporate South Africa and global finance, which has held back development and deepened inequality.

There have been important social advances since the democratic transformation of the early 1990s, from water and power supply to housing and education. And in the global climate of the early 90s, it's perhaps not surprising that the ANC bent to the neoliberal flood tide, putting its Freedom Charter calls for public ownership and redistribution of land on the back burner. But the price has been to entrench racial economic division, unemployment and corruption, while failing to attract the expected direct foreign investment.

The baleful grip of neoliberal capitalism, and the growing pressure to break with it, is a challenge that goes far beyond South Africa, of course. But along with the struggle for social justice and national liberation, the right to resist tyranny and occupation, and profound opposition to racism and imperial power, that is part of the real legacy of Nelson Mandela.



Thursday, January 9, 2014

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Brain Is Mightier Than the Camera
When Remembering Art

Research Suggests People Who Take Pictures of Art Remember Less About the Works Than Those Who Don't

from The Wall Street Journal

People view 'Girl with a Pearl Earring (c. 1665)' by Johannes Vermeer in the exhibition Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis in October at the Frick Collection in New York City. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

As museums swarm with visitors snapping photos in their galleries, new research suggests people who take pictures of art with their camera phones remember less about the works than those who don't.

A study released last week found that people remember 10 percent fewer objects and roughly 12 percent fewer details about the objects they've seen if they've photographed them rather than simply looked at them.

"When you press click on that button for the camera, you're sending a signal to your brain saying, 'I've just outsourced this, the camera is going to remember this for me,'" said Linda Henkel, a psychology professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, who led the study. "The photos are trophies. You want to show people where you were rather than saying, 'Hey, this is important, I want to remember this.'"

In the study, university undergraduates were led to 30 works in the school's Bellarmine Museum of Art and told to spend 30 seconds looking at each work, photographing half of them. In a memory quiz the next day, they had to distinguish between objects they'd seen and new ones added to the mix. Ms. Henkel calls the resulting memory gap the "photo-taking impairment effect." She added that results improved slightly when people taking the memory test viewed photographs of the objects and not just written descriptions of them.

In a second phase of the study, Ms. Henkel instructed participants snap close-up shots of certain works and found that those people remembered the art just as well as those who looked without shooting. "It's a phenomenon called boundary extension," she said. "Our brains create a mental representation of that object. What the camera remembers is the photograph, but your mind remembers the object as a whole."

Such research comes as museums are encouraging the use of camera phones in their galleries. The Museum of Modern Art in New York recently introduced MoMA Audio+, an audio-tour program delivered on an iPod Touch that allows people to take pictures. At home, following their visit, they can access a dashboard that documents the artworks they photographed. MoMA plans to offer a publicly downloadable version of the app next year that will allow people to share pictures via social media while still inside the galleries.

Many museums allow visitors to snap their permanent collections but not special exhibitions. Over the past year, the Dallas Museum of Art has pushed harder to secure permission from lenders to allow visitors to shoot temporary exhibitions, too. "I am pleased that people linger for more than a couple of seconds even if only to frame up a picture," the museum's director, Maxwell L. Anderson, wrote in an email. "Artworks at their best are powerful forms of communication—and taking a snapshot does nothing to reduce their power."

Saturday, January 4, 2014