Weekend

Required Reading

This week, painters painting themselves as lions, Google’s modern day Library of Alexandria, the new Museum of Failure, the CIA and Arab modern art, Chinatowns today, and more.

Kitty Hawk has created a prototype personal aircraft that flies over water. See more on Dezeen (via Dezeen)

This week, painters painting themselves as lions, Google’s modern day Library of Alexandria, the new Museum of Failure, the CIA and Arab modern art, Chinatowns today, and more.

A lion by Perugino (left) and a self-portrait.
  • Google’s book scanning project wanted to create the contemporary world’s new Library of Alexandria, and this is what happened:

By 2004, Google had started scanning. In just over a decade, after making deals with Michigan, Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, the New York Public Library, and dozens of other library systems, the company, outpacing Page’s prediction, had scanned about 25 million books. It cost them an estimated $400 million. It was a feat not just of technology but of logistics.

… In August 2010, Google put out a blog post announcing that there were 129,864,880 books in the world. The company said they were going to scan them all.

Of course, it didn’t quite turn out that way. This particular moonshot fell about a hundred-million books short of the moon. What happened was complicated but how it started was simple: Google did that thing where you ask for forgiveness rather than permission, and forgiveness was not forthcoming. Upon hearing that Google was taking millions of books out of libraries, scanning them, and returning them as if nothing had happened, authors and publishers filed suit against the company, alleging, as the authors put it simply in their initial complaint, “massive copyright infringement.”

  • “Red states,” like South Dakota, just a disproportionate amount of federal arts funding, and now they’re asking what’s next:

South Dakota, a largely rural, politically red state that voted decisively for Donald J. Trump in November, is also a prime recipient of money from the very arts endowment that the president wants to eliminate. If any state knows the value of publicly financed art, it may be South Dakota: One of its biggest tourist attractions, Mount Rushmore, is, among other things, a colossal federally funded sculpture.

… People here have already grappled with the question of taxpayer support for the arts when South Dakota’s Republican-controlled state government considered eliminating the state arts council in 2009 during the recession. The council supports local artists and institutions with a mixture of state funds and money from the national endowment. But after a public outcry, Republican officials decided to preserve the spending — by raising a tourism tax.

Some of the products that Dr. West, its chief curator, calls studies in failure include Harley-Davidson fragrance; Bic pens made especially for women (“Yes, that’s right: lady-pens,” said a Forbes review); and Coca-Cola Blak, a coffee-inspired drink.

“The purpose of the museum is to show that innovation requires failure,” Dr. West said as he introduced some of the exhibits in a video posted this month on the YouTube channel of Fredrik Skavlan, a Scandinavian talk show host. “If you are afraid of failure, then we can’t innovate.” He said he started the museum “to encourage organizations to be better at learning from failures — not just ignoring them and pretending they never happened.”

Dr. West held up a Bic for Her pen, still in its package. “Of course women can’t use pens for men; big failure,” he said sarcastically.

In 1955, the AFME organized four art exhibitions by Middle Eastern artists including Syria’s Fateh Moudarres, Egypt’s Jirair Palamoudian and Salah Taher, who was then director of the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art. Iranian, Turkish and Pakistani artists were also recipients of AFME’s largess.

In fact in 1957-58 the AFME sent Pakistani art to Baghdad and Tehran in what appears to be an attempt to improve relations between America’s regional allies. The AFME was particularly active in the year 1962-63 as it provided “assistance in scheduling interesting exhibitions” to galleries in New York, Minneapolis, Evanston, San Francisco, Spokane and Pittsburgh.

Originally formed at the edges of downtowns, Chinatowns held on as such commercial and residential areas expanded. Collectively, they represent more than 150 years of immigrant survival since the first wave of Chinese immigration began in the 1850s. “Chinatowns used to be ghettos because of segregation,” said Peter Kwong, a professor of urban policy and planning at Hunter College in New York City. “After the 1965 Immigration Act, you have a resurfacing of Chinatowns all throughout the United States, and particularly in the East Coast.”

That is far from the case today. An Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) study of Chinatowns in three East Coast cities found that the number of white residents in Chinatowns was growing at a faster rate than the overall white population in those cities. “In fact, the white population in Boston and Philadelphia’s Chinatown doubled between 2000 and 2010 while the white populations decreased in those cities overall,” the authors wrote. In New York’s Chinatown, among all racial groups, only the white population had grown in the decade leading to 2013 when the study was released.

The few worldly possessions she left behind, accumulated over the course of more decades than you or I will probably live, didn’t take up much space in the tiny two-room church-owned apartment where she spent the last 27 years of her life.

… The reason for her longevity has long been pondered, and investigated, by researchers and fans. Could the lake’s mild climate be a factor? Or the three raw eggs she ate every day for nearly a century?

The true beginning of the Arab Spring, as Noam Chomsky has observed, took place in the camps of Gdeim Izik. And it is there, in Western Sahara, that the nations of the world must put an end to Morocco’s unlawful occupation, granting freedom and independence to Africa’s last colony.

  • Zeynep Tufekci’s new book is Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protests, and she delivered a keynote this past week on the “intersection between technology and society, focusing on the myriad of impacts of digital connectivity and computational decision-making”:

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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