You’ve undoubtedly heard Jimi Hendrix‘s smash hit “Foxy Lady, which Rolling Stone placed at #153 on their 2004 list of the “500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.” But have you ever wondered to yourself, “Hey, Self, wouldn’t it be cool to hear “Foxy Lady” played using knives, tin cans, a tennis racket, a typewriter, and old landline phone?” No, of course, you haven’t. That’s a pretty silly thing to wonder about. But now, thanks to Italian one-man-band and self-proclaimed “Trash n’ Roll” artist Porcapizza, that dream that nobody has ever had is now a reality and–spoiler alert–it sounds f*cking fantastic.In the video below, Porcapizza uses a vast array of makeshift instruments made from everyday household items. A typewriter outfitted with aluminum cans and run through an effects processor serves as the percussion, assisted with a looper. A telephone receiver acts as the vocal mic, while kitchen butter knives fashioned as a mbira add a metallic bassline. However, the song truly begins to come together when he picks up his homemade four-string guitar, fashioned from a yellow construction hard hat, an old wooden tennis racket, and a bunch of black zip-ties, all assisted by reverb, vocal filters, and a looping system. He even ends the video with a few guitar quotes of another Jimi Hendrix favorite, “Voodoo Child”, a nice little Easter egg for the Hendrix hardcores that may happen to tune in.I know what you’re thinking–I don’t need to hear some guy ruin a song I love by playing it on a bunch of trash. But give Porcapizza’s rendition of “Foxy Lady” just one minute of time, and you’ll see what all the fuss is about:Porcapizza – “Foxy Lady” (Jimi Hendrix cover)To check out more music from Massimo Tortella, better known as Porcapizza, head to his YouTube page.[H/T Music Crowns]
The Motet is in the midst of a big year in 2018. In addition to a slew of high-profile festival sets and more throughout the spring and summer, the Colorado-based funk outfit is fresh off their annual Red Rocks blowout and gearing up for the first-ever Motet festival, Motet On The Mesa, on July 27th and 28th.Set to take place at the scenic Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership in Taos, New Mexico—4 miles from both the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument and the Stage Coach Hot Springs—the festival will see multiple sets by The Motet, as well as performances by Break Science, SunSquabi, The Suffers, TAUK, Organ Freeman, and Mama Magnolia.We caught both drummer/bandleader Dave Watts and vocalist Lyle Divinsky on the phone from Denver in the days following their Red Rocks show. Still buzzing from the memorable night—which Divinsky ranks among his favorite he’s played with the band—the two spoke candidly about Red Rocks, giving love to the 90’s, bananas smoking weed, prepping their new album and, of course, their excitement for Motet on the Mesa. Check out the conversation below:Andrew O’Brien: From the looks of your Red Rocks photos, you all put on one hell of a show out there. Can you tell me about it?Lyle Divinsky: It was amazing, man. It was a really, really special show. I can say from my end that it might have been my favorite Motet show I’ve ever played.Dave Watts: I’ve heard that from a few people, actually… We’re gonna release a bunch of videos from Red Rocks, some recap videos and stuff like that so people can relive the show that way. We’re probably gonna have some multi-track recordings of it, but really we just wanna get it out there for folks to hear.LD: These are gonna be cinema-quality videos. It’s the same dude that did the “Supernova” video last year, but this year he brought extra people, so rather than just him running it, he’s got the remote focus person, so he could go around with the camera and not have to worry it. For one of the instrumentals—actually, the percussion breakdown, Watts—I stepped offstage and was standing next to the dude who was doing the remote focus on the cameras…and it was insane, dude, it looked so good…DW: [excitedly] Really? Killer! He’s really good, Steve Conry from Cinesthetics…LD: So I’m so pumped to see these, it’s gonna be really special.Photo: Phierce Photo by Keith GrinerAO: The stage setup at Red Rocks looked new, with the whole big lighting rig and Dave up on the riser. Was that a new plot for you guys?DW: We’ve done risers in the past, but our configuration was a little different this year because we had Jason [Hann] (The String Cheese Incident) involved…LD: Jason and the backup singers. So being able to create, like, a pyramid stack was pretty awesome.AO: That seemed to really come across, at least in the photos I’ve seen. A lot of times, at a place like Red Rocks, where photographers want to capture the area around the show in addition to the show itself, you kind of lose the details a little because everyone’s so spread out…LD: It was really important for us to be close to each other. Like you were saying, at Red Rocks, it’s really easy to just be too spread out because the stage is so big, you feel like you have to make use of that. I feel like it was much more effective this year, the fact that we were right there with each other. It kind of created an aesthetic. For one, [lighting designer] Luke Stratton (Dopapod) is a lighting god, and the setup that he created, the design he put together, on top of the way that we created the stage plot… It felt so good onstage.Photo: Phierce Photo by Keith GrinerAO: Okay, this is important: whose idea was it to cover [Ginuwine’s] “Pony” at Red Rocks?DW: [laughs] Gettin’ credit for the ‘90s cover!LD: [laughs] I love this, because I feel like people probably would not have anticipated it. People probably are looking at me because I’m just, like, the champion of 90’s R&B. But….Dave. Watts. [all laugh] I still remember the day I got that email. He emailed me and said, “I’m thinking we should do something different…and crazy…”LD: “…What’d you think about Ginuwine, ‘Pony’?” And I was at my apartment, where I’m sitting right now…I jumped out of my seat and went “Yeaaaah!”DW: I think it was a good call.LD: My sister was sayin’ that the banana smoking weed that was dancing next to her started singing every single word [all laugh].AO: That sounds like a Red Rocks story if I’ve ever heard one.DW: Oh, yeah…LD: Yeah, definitely. This was my sister’s first time at Red Rocks, and her first time at a Denver-centric show. I was like, “How was the show, what was it like?” She was like “I danced with a banana smoking weed!” That was the first thing that she went for….a banana smoking weed.DW: [bursts out laughing] …a banana smoking weed.LD: But yea, Dave Watts is the doctor and the baker of the 90’s that we cooked up.DW: I only know a few ‘90’s cuts, and I owe it all to Lyle. He introduced me to all the choice ‘90’s cuts, and I just happened to throw that one out there.LD: I couldn’t be more proud of you, Dave [laughs].AO: You guys had [former trumpet player] Gabe Mervine back up there at Red Rocks, too. That must have been fun to get to play together again. Was that something that was pre-planned, or did it just happen naturally like so many of these things do?LD: It’s family, man.DW: We’ve had different players move on and they kind of just disappeared a little bit, but Gabe is still in the scene, he’s still playing with all the players. He’s still part of our community. So it’s kind of an easy fit for him to just jump up with us still.AO: Definitely. And it was cool to see the old guard and the new guard meet with both Gabe and [new trumpet player] Parris Fleming up there together.DW: Yea, it’s great. Parris is one of the most chill people I’ve ever met in my life.LD: Absolutely, just like a sea of chilled-out positivity.AO: I know you guys all share the songwriting duties. Has Parris gotten involved in that aspect of the Motet yet?DW: He’s still sort of stepping into that role. I think he’s been in the back a little witnessing how we go about the creative process, which is smart, so he can step in when need be. I think we have our first song coming up that he’s written a bunch of horn lines for, so we’re really excited about that.Photo: Phierce Photo by Keith GrinerAO: Parris is the “new guy” now, but the first time I talked to you back in 2016, you an [saxophonist] Drew Sayers had just joined up. I remember talking to [keyboardist] Joey [Porter] before Lyle’s first tour with the band, and he told me how you wrote lyrics for a few tracks before you guys had even met, and that sort of made it clear to everyone that you were the right guy to take over that role.LD: Yeah, both “The Truth” and “Fool No More” happened before I had met them in person. I was in the studio like less than two months after the first time I met these guys [laughs].AO: And now in the couple years since then, in your live show, those have developed into some of my favorite songs you play, more so every time. It’s wild to see how much those tracks, and your whole act, has really clicked and built up this great chemistry since then.LD: It’s like we’ve known each other forever, Watts.DW: Awww, man. That’s adorable… [all laugh]. There’re certain people that are cut from the same stone, you know? And when you find that, you know it. When we sent those tracks out to Lyle and he came back with those lyrics and those melodies. We completed the songs before we even met the guy, so it was clear that it made sense for us to be doing this together.AO: Your last album, Totem, came out in 2016. Since then, you’ve released a few new singles and just debuted a new one at Red Rocks, “Highly Compatible”. Whats the status on a new full-length Motet album?LD: It’s definite, baby.DW: Nowadays, you can release a track at a time. You don’t have to release the whole thing at once, which is great for us because then people get used to the music, they know the music. You do them gradually in the live show, and you don’t have to sort of hit people with all your new stuff all at once when they don’t any of the songs, you know?AO: Yeah, that can be overwhelming as a fan for sure…DW: So for us it’s great. We’ll put out probably four or five songs as singles before we actually release the record. It’ll probably be a ten-song album? Eleven-song album?LD: Yea, something like that. We’re catching a cool stride, though. It’s been interesting kinda doing it as a longer process like this as opposed to just going into the studio for a couple weeks. It’s been really fun. It’s been cool to take it slow and make a song at a time and be able to focus in like that.Photo: Phierce Photo by Keith GrinerAO: Looking ahead now, you guys have your first-ever festival coming up, Motet on the Mesa, at Taos Brewing in New Mexico. That looks like it’s gonna be a blast, congratulations on that. I’ve never been, but I hear fantastic things about that venue and just the area in general. LD: It’s a magical place.DW: Two nights in Taos, come on…LD: I don’t throw these words around, but it is just kind of a spiritual place. It’s desolately beautiful… Part of you feels like you’re in Mad Max, part of you feels like you’re in this desert wonderland… These Earthships are all around you, these houses that are kind of built into the ground. … It’s unlike any place you’ve ever been.Then the outdoor stage at Taos Brewing, I don’t know exactly what it’s made out of, but it’s made out of this, like, stone or clay dome. It’s crazy. The way that it’s shaped—Dave, I don’t know if you’ve checked this out—but if you stand in a certain place right outside of the brewery, like a couple hundred feet away, and talk into the stage at a normal volume, you can hear their voice because of the way that it acoustically travels.DW: Whaaat, that’s wild…Railroad Earth at a recent show at Taos Brewing Mothership; @musiconthemothershipLD: I feel like that’s sort of the vibe of the place. It’s these really kooky, crazy attributes about the area that make it that much more special and that much more unique.DW: That’s gonna be a fun gig, I think there are gonna be a lot of New Mexico freaks coming out. We did a show recently at [Santa Fe’s] Meow Wolf, and it was pretty cool [laughs]… Hopefully, we get a lot of those same folks coming out…LD: And I think a lot of the Colorado crushers are gonna come down, too. It’s such a family. The crew that we have going, the bands that we have, they’re such a cool family, man. And I’m really excited to see what happens with that.AO: It definitely is a super cool group of players you guys have coming down—Break Science, TAUK, SunSquabi, The Suffers, Organ Freeman, Mama Magnolia… How involved were you guys in picking that lineup? How did you decide on those bands specifically?LD: Yeah, it was fully us [putting the lineup together]. And as far as picking the bands, it’s kind of a list of our homies, and people that we love… People that we wanna see, people that we not only wanna play with but also support, give our fans a chance to see all of them. Whether it’s people on the rise like Mama Magnolia, or the homies in Break Science and SunSquabi, or folks that haven’t come through Colorado a lot like The Suffers. It’s people that we all believe in musically and that we love to hang with.AO: And of course, since it’s all homies, I’m sure that opens the door for some cool collaborations at the festival. Any particular ones you have in mind that you’re most excited about?LD: I don’t know, man…you know…doing fun, creative stuff with people that we love being around and hanging out with isn’t really our thing…AO: Totally, it sucks. Super lame… [all laugh]DW: We’ve got the late night set too, so that’s gonna get weird for sure…The Motet’s first-ever festival, Motet on the Mesa, will take place at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership in Taos, NM on July 27th and 28th. To grab your tickets, head here.
John Lennon and his wife Yoko One never shied from their roles as peace and political activists in the 70’s. The two took part in “bed-ins” and were outspoken advocates of the counterculture movement agains the Vietnam War, going so far as to rent billboards in cities across the country that read “WAR IS OVER! If You Want It – Happy Christmas from John & Yoko“. That was in 1969.Fast-forward two years to 1971, Lennon came up with the theme and lyrics to “Merry Xmas (War is Over)”, which saw the songwriter provide an optimistic view of social unity and peaceful change with a holiday flare that witnessed the song skyrocket to the top of the charts and become an annual holiday favorite all over the world.“And so this is Xmas (war is over) For weak and for strong (if you want it) For rich and the poor ones (war is over) The world is so wrong (if you want it) And so happy Xmas (war is over) For black and for white (if you want it) For yellow and red ones (war is over) Let’s stop all the fight (now)”Enjoy a listen to the Christmas standard below. Merry Xmas to all!
Lettuce has announced that Ghost-Note will be joining them when they hit Brooklyn Steel on January 19th as part of their 2019 Vibe Up Tour. Ghost-Note’s addition to Lettuce’s Brooklyn show comes on the heels of their New Year’s Eve performance alongside KNOWER at New York’s Irving Plaza. The Brooklyn Steel performance will mark the final stop on a joint nine-show run for the two bands.Tickets for Lettuce with Ghost-Note at Brooklyn Steel on Saturday, January 19th are available here.Lettuce and Ghost-Note will begin their run of shows together on January 10th in Rochester, NY and continue to Boston, MA (1/11); Clifton Park, NY (1/12); South Burlington, VT (1/13); Indianapolis, IN (1/15); Detroit, MI (1/16); Pittsburgh, PA (1/17); and Hartford, CT (1/18) before landing in Brooklyn on 1/19.Lettuce will continue on from there throughout the early months of 2019 with a run of supportless “evening with” shows followed by a number of performances with The Greyhounds. For a full list of Lettuce’s upcoming tour dates, hit their website here.After their stint with Lettuce, Ghost-Note will head out for a number of headlining shows on their Smack ‘Em Tour featuring support from Electric Kiff in addition to a number of March dates opening for Umphrey’s McGee. For a full list of Ghost-Note’s upcoming tour dates, head here.
Veteran police officials James Claiborne and Michael Giacoppo signed on last fall as deputy chiefs in the Harvard University Police Department. Together, they have 65 years of experience in patrol and supervision.Claiborne, 57, is a veteran of the Boston Police Department. He is now in charge of policing at Harvard’s Cambridge campus. Giacoppo, 59, served with the Cambridge Police Department. He now oversees the University’s police operations in Boston. It’s a reversal of their geographical orientations. “We’re both learning each other’s back yard,” said Giacoppo.What does their presence mean for the University’s force of 87 officers and the kind of policing they do? Here is an abbreviated version of a recent question-and-answer session with the veteran officers.Q. You both served with big-city departments. Is doing police work at Harvard culture shock?Giacoppo: It’s a lot quieter than where we’re from. I was used to dealing with crisis every day. Coming to Harvard [there] is a different set of issues. You’re not in the maelstrom as often, if at all.Claiborne: While it’s quieter, the day-to-day tasks have a different complexity. In the city, you’re pretty autonomous. Here you’re in a web of complex relationships between the various parts of the University.Giacoppo: You’ve got to be very proud to be here. You’re at the world’s greatest university, and you’re the police force for the world’s greatest university. That’s a big ticket.Q. Community policing has long been part of the Harvard landscape. Any changes ahead?Claiborne: We’ll broaden and strengthen the community policing program. What I foresee is that every building on this campus will basically be owned by one of the officers. There will be a relationship between those facilities, those residential Houses, and a particular Harvard officer. We’re trying to push a sense of ownership and accountability.Giacoppo: Community policing is a strategy, it’s a way of doing business, it’s your mindset. The key here is partnerships and outreach and knowing your community and them knowing you. Every day is an opportunity to build those partnerships.Claiborne: To paraphrase one of our politicians, all politics is local. All policing is local also. Regardless of how large you are, the real work of the police department is starting with where the [officers] meet the citizens.Q. Any observations about the HUPD force?Claiborne: One of the things that impressed me most is the quality of the personnel. Without the constraints of civil service, we are able to hire people who are as close to ideal as possible, who fit the needs of the Harvard campus and the Harvard Police Department. Some of the officers in other places we’ve worked wouldn’t fit here. The officers we hire fit.Giacoppo: I was surprised at the amount of medical assistance that the patrol force offers. They handle medical service calls all the time.Claiborne: I was impressed by the amount of care the officers render. We are really a full-service social service agency. [The department’s] philosophy is that if you live here, work here, or study here you’re a client of the Harvard University Police Department.Giacoppo: The officers here, without question, are expert report writers. That’s one of the issues you see with PDs [police departments]. The quality of the reports goes from very, very good to very, very bad. Here, I’ve been very impressed with the way they structure their reports and their oversight.Claiborne: Community policing has been in vogue for a while. A lot of departments talk about problem-solving training. These officers put it into practice, probably better than any group of officers I’ve been associated with.Q. Any final thoughts?Giacoppo: I haven’t had one single moment or day that I’ve regretted coming here, or that I’ve been frustrated or bored or anything. The lure of Harvard is special for me.Claiborne: This is a service organization. We’re here to make life better for the people who live here or study here and work here. And we are accessible to them. We’re willing to help, to encourage people to communicate with the HUPD. There are no silly problems. There are no problems that are too small.
The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks created a sense of vulnerability in the United States that still persists, that transformed the nation’s Muslim community from unseen to a suspected enemy within, and that prompted actions that one expert predicted will be viewed by history as moral failures.That was the sense of a panel discussion on Thursday in Harvard’s Boylston Hall. Duncan Kennedy, the Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence at Harvard Law School and a member of the panel, said the attacks were not just devastating because of the horrific loss of life, but also because of the difficulty Americans had in understanding them. That was captured, he said, in the question commonly repeated after the attacks: “Why do they hate us?”The attacks were viewed as a threat to the nation even though its existence was never truly threatened. Despite the horrific death toll, the number of those killed on 9/11 is dwarfed annually by those who die in auto accidents and murders, Kennedy noted.But the attacks illustrated in shocking fashion that not everyone holds the overview of America commonly held at home: that of early colonies heroically throwing off European oppression. Instead, he said, the attackers saw the United States as a global power practicing its own colonialism and oppression around the world. The attacks’ impact came from both the loss of life and the targeting of symbols of American power. The World Trade Center represented economic might; the Pentagon, military strength; and the Capitol building or White House — the presumed target of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania —global political reach.The attacks’ impact was magnified by the fact that the two Trade Center towers were not only damaged, but collapsed, something even the terrorists couldn’t have foreseen, Kennedy said.As the nation turns inward and remembers the victims of the attacks this week, Kennedy said, it is important that Americans do not again lose sight of their impact on the broader world and perpetuate the “naive ignorance” that once left many asking, “Why do they hate us?”Kennedy was joined on the panel by Jocelyne Cesari, director of the Islam in the West Program and Islamopedia, and Charlie Clements, executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. The event, sponsored by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies’ Outreach Center, the Middle East Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, was introduced by CMES Outreach Program Director Paul Beran.The 9/11 attacks deeply affected America’s Muslims, Cesari said. In an instant, they went from being an unseen, virtually ignored group to being under a harsh spotlight. They skipped right from unseen to “the enemy,” without ever entering the status of “the other,” Cesari said.The new status of Muslims was crystallized by the debate over a proposed New York City mosque near the Ground Zero site of the Trade Center towers, Cesari said. Though Muslims had been victims of discrimination in Europe for decades and had encountered some resistance there to the construction of mosques in the 1980s and ’90s, there had never been that resistance in America. That’s because the United States doesn’t have a deep history of being divided by religion, she said. Now, the visible symbols of Islam have become unwelcome, and the mere presence of a mosque in a neighborhood makes some residents feel unsafe.Race traditionally has been such a hot topic in America that critics could not openly attack Barack Obama for being black. It was all right, however, for some to attack him as being “the other” by associating him with Islam, Cesari said.Muslims, meanwhile, are working to overcome such ill will and to “re-Americanize,” Cesari said, re-integrating into the nation’s mainstream.That mainstream may come to view the nation’s actions since 9/11 with a more jaundiced eye as time passes, according to Clements. Clements traced how the nation’s understanding of the Cuban Missile Crisis has changed after that 10th anniversary. People now know that the world was even closer to nuclear war than was suspected then, Clements said.Clements said the 9/11 attacks led the United States to suspend its better judgment and commit several moral lapses whose repercussions will continue to be felt.After the attacks, there was a massive global outpouring of sympathy and good will toward the United States — including from the Muslim world — that Clements said was squandered in the subsequent military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.Congress passed the Patriot Act without lawmakers even reading what they were voting for, and other nations followed suit. Since then, Clements said, that has resulted in 120,000 people being arrested, 36,000 convicted, and an erosion of civil liberties, violations of human rights, and the legitimization of some forms of torture.“There was a moment that the world was with us, and we squandered it,” Clements said.
<a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gmpi51Jbpr0″ rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”> <img src=”https://img.youtube.com/vi/Gmpi51Jbpr0/0.jpg” alt=”0″ title=”How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content ” /> </a> Since it was founded in 1931, the Woodberry Poetry Room has played a vital role in preserving poetry and helping students, scholars, and the public experience verse through text, audio and visual recordings, and readings. Its new series, “Reinventing the Workshop,” is a sort of gaze inward, a chance for poets and teachers from across the country to examine the process and tradition of instruction in creative writing.“It is not a judgment on the workshop model to reinvent it,” said curator Christina Davis. “Like all made things, it invites revision, and it is one of the roles of poetry to question structures, to notice their deficits and remake them to elicit their un-actualized potential.”The series launched Feb. 12 at Knafel Center with Lyn Hejinian of the University of California, Berkeley, reading from her collection “The Book of a Thousand Eyes” and examining nontraditional mechanisms for poetic expression.“I wanted to propose that the notion of the author that students or workshop participants bring with them is a kind of wall,” she said, introducing a presentation titled “Authorship: Allegories of the Wall.”In shifting the focus from what it means to be an author to engaging with creative materials, Hejinian sees an opportunity to transform the workshop into a more meaningful and less anxious environment.“There are all kinds of ways being utilized to get people to enjoy the sheer pleasure of making things. It might be that there’s where a wall can fall. It’s not that you have to inflate yourself into the capital ‘A’ artist or capital ‘P’ poet, [but that there’s] just the pleasure of doing it — the pleasure of generating aesthetic events.” In Hejinian’s examples, she offered a series of protocols for collaborative composition, or, as she sometimes called them, “games.”In one model, Hejinian told participants to make descriptive lists of everyday tasks, which were then assigned playing-card suits and numbers. Participants pulled cards from the deck one at a time and rearranged their lists accordingly, generating new poems. In another, she asked her students to complete a phrase by the poet Clark Coolidge: “This notebook is too heavy, and not even half —” After each student filled in the blank, Hejinian compiled the responses into a collection, “Sonnets Beginning With a Line by Clark Coolidge.”The conversation would not have been complete without examples of published works that challenge structure and syntax, including an excerpt of “Via” by Caroline Bergvall, a work composed of 48 versions of the first three lines of Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” and Harryette Mullen’s “Dim Lady,” a play on cultural dialect inspired by Shakespeare’s “dark lady” sonnets.Hejinian also led an on-the-spot reinvention of the workshop. Notecards were distributed and participants were challenged to write down a line and pass their card to the person next to them, who added his or her own statement before sending the card on its way. After eight stops, a collective poem was born for each participant to take home.Rowan Ricardo Phillips followed Hejinian on Feb. 25 at Woodberry with a talk titled “The Importance of Getting It Wrong: Competence, Negative Capability, and the Workshop.” “The language encapsulating the series encourages — all but demands, to be honest — a good deal of self-reflection about what, if anything, we do to turn to turn the poetry workshop into something new, something needful, something flourishing, something of a challenge,” he said.“Reinventing the Workshop” continues April 2 at Woodberry with a presentation by Ana Božiĉević, “The Lines of Others: On Poetic Performance.” All sessions are free and open to the public.Rowan Ricardo Phillips In the second installment in the Woodberry Poetry Room’s series, “Reinventing the Workshop,” Rowan Ricardo Phillips questions the teleology of “competency” in the workshop and explores ways to align the ethos of the workshop with the idea of the lyric as a choral structure. Video courtesy of the Woodberry Poetry Room
From the time he was 10 a century and a half ago, William Brewster searched the woods and fields of New England for birds, eventually becoming a noted ornithologist and spending half his life curating the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology’s bird collection.In addition to his passion for fieldwork, Brewster was a diligent note-taker. When he died in 1919, he left behind a collection of 40,000 birds, nests, and eggs, but also thousands of pages of diaries and journals that provide valuable insights on both the birdlife of his era and, through his writing on other subjects, the times themselves.At least, they would if people could read them.“In order to look at them, you actually have to come here,” said Constance Rinaldo, a librarian at the Museum of Comparative Zoology’s Ernst Mayr Library, where Brewster’s writings are held. “That makes them, for many people, inaccessible.”That’s where the video games come in.The library has embarked on an 18-month collaboration with the Missouri Botanical Garden, Cornell University, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Biodiversity Heritage Library on a project to use crowdsourcing to transcribe Brewster’s journals into a searchable digital format, and to create video games for the more-exacting task of checking those transcriptions for accuracy.The pilot project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, aims to help museums and libraries digitize collections of printed materials. Handwritten journals like those kept by Brewster, whose cursive is difficult for optical character-recognition software to translate, is one example; another involves historical documents in hard-to-recognize formats, such as the seed catalogs held by the Missouri Botanical Garden, rich with images, tables, and text in multiple sizes.The key goal in the initiative is to make a digital copy that is both searchable and accurate, according to Patrick Randall, who is working on the project for the Ernst Mayr Library.A searchable digital copy can be created by crowdsourcing the transcription to a small army of volunteers, a strategy already employed by several institutions. For this project, Brewster’s journals are being transcribed at two sites, DigiVol and FromThePage. As a step in quality control, each site is creating a copy that can be checked against the other.The second part, ensuring accuracy, has the potential to be a bit trickier, Randall said. Since poring over a document for errors isn’t everyone’s idea of exciting work, it typically doesn’t attract volunteers; instead, the institute must painstakingly go over the pages.“The quality control is always the big issue, because ultimately a museum still has to have the final say about what gets the go-ahead, what goes online,” Randall said.That verification process is critical, Rinaldo said, because not every volunteer is familiar with the subject matter. A lack of familiarity combined with hard-to-read handwriting can lead to errors, such as species names being misspelled, which could cause a search engine to miss entries as researchers gather data.It may not be critical “if you miss a ‘than’ or an ‘a,’ but if you’re looking for patterns in bird lists and you spell the scientific name wrong, it might not get picked up,” Rinaldo said. “This is primary research. The point is to get primary research out there so people can incorporate it into what they’re doing.”But what if checking for errors could be made interesting enough for volunteers to do it? Or, better yet, to draw even more volunteers to the task?Enter TiltFactor, a gaming-focused design studio and research lab led by Dartmouth College Professor of the Digital Humanities Mary Flanagan. The company, which develops games that address educational and societal challenges, has been brought on to develop two video games that will engage volunteers in checking transcribed documents for errors.“The gaming piece would allow us to ensure the transcripts are close to 100 percent correct,” Rinaldo said.Flanagan said that although games haven’t been developed for this specific purpose before, the approach itself isn’t unusual, since some kinds of games have been used for social and educational purposes for millennia, a practice she tracked back to the first Olympic Games’ promotion of health and fitness.First versions of the video games should be ready by early next year, Flanagan said. One is aimed at the more altruistic volunteer, who will want a minimum of gameplay features. The second will have more of those features, such as the ability to track progress, gain points for correct transcriptions, and lose them for incorrect ones.The challenge, according to Flanagan and TiltFactor game designer Max Seidman, is to create gameplay that is interesting enough to stand by itself and even attract players who might not be interested in natural history, birds, or the broader societal benefit of their high scores.Video games “are not the first thing you think about when you think of biodiversity heritage,” Flanagan said. “I think this may just be the beginning of ways we use participatory systems in other areas.”
While war films date to the beginnings of cinema and the Spanish-American War, World War I’s magnification of the mutual impact of war and cinema on each other brought the relationship to an entirely new level. As the war that introduced modern technology into combat, World War I saw film and the moving image enlisted as instruments of surveillance and documentation. Away from the battlefront, propaganda films and newsreels worked to keep the civilian population informed and to incite them to join the fight.The Harvard Film Archive is proud to present a survey of films about World War I, which span several countries, decades and contexts, illustrating that the trauma of the war meant that as often as not, war films became anti-war films. If the conflict was not “the war to end all wars,” it nevertheless represented the end of the early modern age and the coming of an entirely new world, one in which cinema would have a central place.This program is presented in conjunction with a two-day conference at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, “In Our Time: The Great War at 100,” on February 12 and 13. For more information, visit their website.The series runs from Feb. 13 – March 2. Join the conversation with #GreatWarAt100
The Association of American Geographers has named Peter Bol as its 2015 Honorary Geographer. Bol is the vice provost for advances in learning and the Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University.In making its selection, the AAG recognized Bol’s leadership role and engagement with the AAG to build university-wide support for geospatial analysis in teaching and research at Harvard University, and the resulting establishment of the Harvard Center for Geographic Analysis, of which he was its first and extraordinarily successful director.AAG Executive Director Douglas Richardson will confer the 2015 AAG Honorary Geographer Award upon Peter K. Bol at the 2015 AAG Annual Meeting in Chicago during the “Launch of the AAG GeoHumanities Journal” session on Thursday, April 23. The session begins at 1:20 p.m. in the Gold Coast room at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Read Full Story