Required Reading

Finally, a great use for Thomas Kinkade paintings. Backdrops for Star Wars mashups. (via geekologie.com)
Finally, a great use for Thomas Kinkade paintings. Backdrops for Star Wars mashups. (via geekologie.com)

This week, race/ethnicity stats in popular film, the world’s first emoji movie, helping the blind see art, problems for photojournalists in Russia, Cornell returns tablets to Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s former palace becomes a museum, and much more.

 What to learn how to fold a drawing like an architect? Bob Borson wants to show you.

 @cmonstah turned us on this week to this fascinating report on USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism website on “Race/Ethnicity in 500 Popular Films: Is the Key to Diversifying Cinematic Content held in the Hand of the Black Director?” by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Marc Choueiti, and Dr. Katherine Pieper of the school’s Media Diversity & Social Change Initiative. Their findings are not entirely surprising:

Across 100 top-grossing films of 2012, only 10.8% of speaking characters are Black, 4.2% are Hispanic, 5% are Asian, and 3.6% are from other (or mixed race) ethnicities. Just over three-quarters of all speaking characters are White (76.3%). These trends are relatively stable, as little deviation is observed across the 5-year sample.

 Actor and comedian Aziz Ansari plans to cast big name stars in a new Emoji movie — the world’s first — he is planning based on this emoji, known as the “Dancer“:

Screen shot 2013-11-03 at 12.39.58 PM

Here he is discussing his plans:

 I love the idea that the Metropolitan Museum is organizing special programs for blind and partly sighted art lovers:

On a recent Friday night, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York held its first public exhibition of original art made in its “Seeing Through Drawing” classes. Participants — all blind or partly sighted — created works inspired by objects in the museum’s collection that were described to them by sighted instructors and that they were also allowed to touch.

But have you ever considered why these programs are increasingly important?

Such efforts by museums are likely to increase. In 2010, about 56.7 million people, or 18.7 percent of the population, had some level of disability, according to the Census Bureau. And both the number and percentage of disabled Americans are expected to increase in coming years because of the aging of the population, greater longevity and more cases of certain types of learning disabilities …

 Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s former palace in Basra is about to reopen as the Basra Museum and it will display antiquities from Iraq’s Assyrian, Babylonian and Arabic past. And this fascinating fact about looted antiquities in Iraq:

Over the past decade, only 4,310 objects out of 16,000 stolen from the Baghdad Museum have been recovered. Meanwhile, 133,000 antiquities (including 80,000 coins) from illicit digging have been handed in, which could be a fraction of the total lost.

 The situation in Russia becomes increasingly worrisome, and now this from the New York Times, “In Russia, Conflating Journalism and ‘Hooliganism’“:

Russia can be a hostile place for journalists, especially those attracted to the most compelling issues of the day, which of late have been the simmering tensions between Mr. Putin’s government and those seeking greater political freedoms. Mr. Sinyakov’s work often focused on Russia’s oppositionists — from the still-free members of the punk performers Pussy Riot to the bare-chested guerrilla protesters known as Femen, the retrial of the tycoon Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky in 2010 to the protests against election fraud and Mr. Putin’s return as president in 2012. In the view of the authorities here, there is often little distinction between those covering dissent and those participating in it.

 Cornell University has announced that it will return 10,000 ancient tablets, dating from the 4th millenium BC, to Iraq. It is being called “one of the largest returns of antiquities by an American university.” The LA Times has the story:

Among the tablets is the private archive of a 21st century BC Sumerian princess in the city of Garsana that has made scholars rethink the role of women in the ancient kingdom of Ur. The administrative records show Simat-Ishtaran ruled the estate after her husband died.

Is this a trend?

Other American universities have recently agreed to return ancient art after evidence emerged that the objects might have been recently looted. Last year, Princeton University returned about 170 objects and fragments to Italy after authorities there linked them to antiquities dealer Edoardo Almagià, who was investigated for trafficking in looted objects. That same year, Ohio’s Bowling Green State University signaled it was willing to return a dozen ancient mosaics to Turkey after evidence emerged that they had been looted.

 The 92Y published the full video of the “Lou Reed in Conversation with Anthony DeCurtis” talk that took place on September 18, 2006. Reed, who passed away on October 27, 2013, discusses his life and career:

 What does the NSA surveillance mean for you? The Guardian has a great article that follows in the steps for New York Times‘ “Snow Fall” experiment last year, and creates a wonderful (and refreshing) online experience with strong visuals, good organization, excellent design, extensive multimedia, social media integration, and lots of useful (and scary) information. And this nugget:

You don’t need to be talking to a terror suspect to have your communications data analysed by the NSA. The agency is allowed to travel “three hops” from its targets — who could be people who talk to people who talk to people who talk to you. Facebook, where the typical user has 190 friends, shows how three degrees of separation gets you to a network bigger than the population of Colorado. How many people are three “hops” from you?

Related: The Washington Post reports on how the newest Snowden documents suggests that the NSA has infiltrated Yahoo and Google data centers worldwide.

 And finally, if you haven’t seen Ohio State’s “Hollywood Blockbuster Show” routine, then I suggest you take some time and enjoy this amazing show:

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning EST, and it 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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