Short Takes: News From All Over

Strandbeest — Kinetic Sculptures
By Theo Jansen
On a shoreline, somewhere between childhood fantasies of animate dinosaur skeletons and a Tim Burton film, walk Theo Jansen’s ‘Strandbeests.’ The artist’s giant kinetic sculptures, powered solely by the wind, drift across the land in an eerily graceful scuttle. Says Jansen’s website, ‘Eventually he wants to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives.’ For now, watch them run solo by clicking on the site’s ‘film’ link. — Elizabeth Oliver

When Iraqi Blogs Fall Silent
By the Angry Rakkasan, ePluribus Media Community
Iraqi bloggers were a vocal contingent following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. English-language blogs such as Where is Raed? and  A Free Writer became information outposts where Westerners could learn what the corporate media wasn’t telling them. Now, several years into US-led occupation, some of these blogs are silent, the whereabouts of their authors unknown to readers. In a piece also posted on the Daily Kos, ‘The Angry Rakkasan’ traces the life-cycle of a scattering of Iraqi blogs, from active beginnings to silent ends. — Evelyn Hampton

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Sapling
By Nalini M. Nadkarni, Science Creative Quarterly
We don’t think of trees as mobile creatures, but Nalini M. Nadkarni shows that their movement in the wind amounts to great distances. Holding a sheet of paper to the tip of a brush-equipped branch, Nadkarni allows the sway of ‘twiglets’ in the breeze to create paintings. She compares the tree markings to Asian painting — indeed, the two genres bear a similar lightness and grace. Visit the site to see an evergreen ‘artist’ in action and the finished product. — Suzanne Lindgren

Personal Kyoto
By Eyebeam
An innovative website is bringing the Kyoto Protocol into the apartments of New York City. Personal Kyoto lets customers of Con Edison — the local energy provider — enter their account information to track how their personal energy consumption matches up against Kyoto-based standards. Eyebeam, the nonprofit behind the program, gets the usage data directly from ConEd and presents it to users in an easy-to-read graph that is updated each month. Though this version is New York-centric, the site invites web developers to import the program to their town. — Suzanne Lindgren

What Drives Media Slant?
By Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, University of Chicago and National Bureau of Economic Research
Political slant in news organizations has critics forever scrambling to fault a media that is either too liberal or too conservative. But a new study out of the University of Chicago shows that we should look closer at who’s buying the news, not who’s putting it out. The study assessed the slants of some 400 US newspapers by evaluating whether their language was closer to Democrats’ or Republicans’. They compared those results to market forces and found that bias is largely demanded by consumers, not thrust upon them. — Jenna Fisher (pdf of the study)

Conquistadors of the Senses
By Pattrice Jones, Freezerbox
Land was not the only thing seized by outside forces in the colonial era — religious conquistadors also suppressed sensory pleasure of all kinds to enforce patriarchal heterosexuality. Pattrice Jones’ historical ruminations expose the violent negation of both sensual gratification and sexual freedom, and are interwoven with reflections on the lasting effects of colonization on culture and the environment. Perhaps we would be better off, proposes Jones, by returning to freedom of sensory experience instead of wallowing in the gluttonous consumer lifestyle that is colonialism’s legacy. — Suzanne Lindgren

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