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“The campaign is in a lull. The wars overseas are winding down. Washington is paralyzed. I’ve loaded up my iPod with some new songs. There’s nothing to do but….hit the road!”

With that, veteran TIME political columnist Joe Klein began his three-week, eight-state road trip, which ended last Friday. Klein has made this sampling of the country’s political climate a yearly tradition. This time around, TIME sent three of the magazine’s contributors to accompany Klein for different legs of the journey. Here, LightBox presents a selection of their work as well as their thoughts from across America.


What was the single most memorable experience you had on the trip?

Andrew HinderakerIn Richmond, Virginia, at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in a Drug Rehabilitation Center, we met a woman who’d struggled with addiction since age nine. She was a convicted felon, and now, in her 40’s, was 21 months clean. She’d recently convinced a friend to allow her to farm a piece of land. For someone like her, whose addiction left her reliant on medical care most of her life, President Obama’s healthcare legislation meant for her a fresh start. With affordable healthcare, she could be a small business owner, a farmer, an active, contributing citizen; without it, she’s just a recovering addict. We learned her story because another man at the meeting expressed his disdain at the Healthcare Reform Act. We got to watch their argument, and this woman’s story change a man’s mind. It certainly proved Joe’s point about getting to know one another; perhaps the government should sponsor free coffee and organize meetings once a week with a group of local strangers.

What was the economic and political mood of the parts of the country you visited?

Katy Steinmetz: People seemed disappointed and exhausted by the political and economic state of things in America. Many were hopeful, but more were resigned—past anger and yearning for a little compromise.

What was the #1 problem facing the people you met?

Pete Pin: This was dependent on class. For a group of upper middle class voters in Charleston, West Virginia, they were most concerned with the visceral partisanship of the country and the future of the health care law. For rural voters in Jackson and Newcomerstown, Ohio, they were most concerned with jobs and social ills.

What was their #1 reason for hope?

Pete: Community at the local level. I learned that in spite of the partisanship and bickering in Washington, people genuinely believed that things can and will get better, not because of intervention by the federal government, but rather because of the community coming together at the local level.

Andrew Hinderaker for TIME

Leslie Marchut and Briggs Wesche eat breakfast with Joe Klein in Chapel Hill, N.C.

What is the national character? Are there uniquely American traits?

Pete: The singular thread I found was an overwhelming sense of self-reliance. Liberalism in the classical sense, John Stuart Mill.

AndrewEveryone likes barbeque.

Did you return from the trip more or less optimistic about the future of the country?

Andrew: Certainly more optimistic. One of the things that struck me most about the places that we visited was all the conversation. In all these pockets of America, folks more than willing, eager even, to talk and debate reach new conclusions. I don’t think it’s the impression you’d get of our citizens from watching the nightly news, but it’s something I observed in every niche.

Andrew Hinderaker is a former TIME photo intern and a photojournalist whose work has appeared in TIME, The Wall Street Journal and New York Magazine.

Pete Pin is currently the international photo intern at TIME and a photographer whose work has also appeared in The New York Times and Forbes.

Katy Steinmetz is a reporter in TIME’s Washington bureau.

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While sifting through thousands of news photos in the past week, TIME’s photo editors noticed a theme: umbrellas. From Mumbai to Manila, shots of people seeking cover from wet and windy weather seemed to be everywhere. And where the sun was out, umbrellas were there too to provide shade and shelter during the summer solstice on June 21 in the Northern Hemisphere. Here TIME presents a selection of recent images from the past few days.

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What happens before a murder? In looking for ways to reduce death penalty cases, David R. Dow realized that a surprising number of death row inmates had similar biographies. In this talk he proposes a bold plan, one that prevents murders in the first place. (Filmed at TEDxAustin.)

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Journalist John Hockenberry tells a personal story inspired by a pair of flashy wheels in a wheelchair-parts catalogue -- and how they showed him the value of designing a life of intent. (From The Design Studio session at TED2012, guest-curated by Chee Pearlman and David Rockwell.)

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Stopwatch in CSS 3, no JavaScript necessary. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

Five years ago the hotness in web development was showing what you could create without resorting to Flash. Now it seems the same is true of JavaScript. While we’ve nothing against JavaScript, the increasingly powerful tools in CSS 3 mean that JavaScript is no longer a necessity for building cool stuff on the web.

The latest JavaScript-free demo we’ve run across is this very cool stopwatch demo made using only CSS 3, no images or JavaScript necessary. Now before you dive into the code and get all Karl Van Hœt on us, yes, there is a script used to handle CSS prefixing, but the actual stopwatch doesn’t require it to work.

But what caught our eye even more than the JavaScript-free stopwatch demo is the tutorial that accompanies it. The tutorial — which is one part screencast and one part code dump — is part of Code Player, which helps you learn how to do things by showing you the code as it’s written. It’s an interesting tutorial method, one we haven’t seen before.

Watching code being written isn’t for everyone, especially beginners who might not be able to easily follow what’s happening, but it’s well suited to those that already understand the basics and just want to see how some particular function was written. It also provides an interesting look at how other developers work, which in turn might teach you a new trick or two.

The Code Player offers a variety of playback speeds depending on how fast you want to run through the tutorial, and there’s a timeline scrubber for pausing and rewinding any bits you miss. Our only complaint is that Code Player forces focus in the browser; when you try to click another tab or do something in the background Code Player steals focus back immediately.

If learning something new by watching someone else type sounds intriguing, head on over to the Code Player site. And don’t worry if the stopwatch demo has no appeal for you, there are plenty of other tutorials to choose from.

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66k

The guest of today's edition of #A.I.L. (Artists in Laboratories) is Richard Pell, the founder and director of The Center for Postnatural History in Pittsburgh, the first museum that seeks to research, document and exhibit man-made biological systems. I interviewed him on the blog last year as he had just opened the museum and the radio show looks at how the center's doing right now, its challenges, its projects, the spider silk-producing goats and the english bull terrier continue

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While most photographers aim to depict the world in a fresh way through the lens of their cameras, Dutch artist Anouk Kruithof aims to revolutionize the way we actually experience looking at photographs. She delights viewers by making unexpected photo, video and spatial installations as well as social, in-situation works or “take-away art.” Last year she won the Jury Prize at the Hyères International Photo festival in France and, as part of that prize, produced an exhibition at this year’s festival—one that literally takes the unexpectedness of her installations to a new height.

The proliferation of digital photography has led to a glut of images in the world, and Kruithof’s holistic approach to making photographic artwork feels fresh within a new generation of artists who question that surplus. Like many young people, she is a compulsive photographer and calls her habit “automagic.” She saw the exhibition at Hyères as an opportunity to do something with ten years worth of images languishing on her hard drives, and that led to the search for an editor who would see the images in a new way.

For the project, called “Untitled: I’ve Taken too Many Photos/I’ve Never Taken a Photo,” she set out to find someone to help her edit her work—someone who had never taken a photograph in his or her life. She began by posting signs in her Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, that read, “Did you Never Made a Photo in Your Life.” Even with the grammatical error, she decided to put them up. The responses led her to a young man named Harrison, who was 19 years old and the only one of the 15 respondents who had never taken a photograph.

“I saw him at his house and asked a lot,” she says. “So I am sure he never took a photo before, which was super special. He is a bit of a ‘pearl’. Also his name is excellent: ‘Harrison Medina.’”

The editing process began with 300 images, which Medina narrowed down to 80 and sized. Kruithof recorded the process as part of the work. “He was just reacting naturally, very much from the heart—just reflecting on them in a very pure and personal way,” she says. Medina looked for two types of images: “He saw either things which reminded him of the ‘bad’ situation in society—a situation he is also in—and, on the other hand, he just used his imagination to see things in the photos.”

       

At the exhibition, the images are all installed on the ceiling and viewers are given hand-held mirrors to view them. “The space, which is an old medieval tower, made me think I wanted to respect it because of the beauty of the building and the atmosphere inside of the building. You cannot hang photos on these walls; it wouldn’t make any sense to me,” Kruithof explains. “When you enter this serene space the first natural thing to do is to look up.” She also believes that the installation format allows viewers to see all 75 photos together or to “frame” their own pictures, rather than looking at one at a time. The framing of the image, in a way that is literally in the hands of the visitor, encourages active participation in the exhibit. Those who see the exhibit become editors, like Harrison was. Kruithof calls the process “analog interactivity.”

The dynamic nature of the installation is something the artist sees throughout her work. “It is like a never-ending chain; one project, book, series or single work ties onto the other one with a certain flow,” she says. “With every new thing I do I want to be surprised  and make something I didn’t see before. Otherwise it would not make sense for me.” And in this case the surprise was a happy one: ”It gave me a good feeling seeing all these people busy framing their pictures and looking at the mirrors of others. It had a lot of depth, in content as well as in form,” she says. ”I am not often happy when a show is up, but in this case I really was.”

Anouk Kruithof is a Dutch photographer. Her most recent book is A Head With Wings, made in collaboration with Alec Soth and Little Brown Mushroom. She was recently awarded the Infinity Award for art by the International Center for Photography. “Untitled (I’ve Taken too Many Photos/ I’ve Never Taken a Photo)” is on view at Hyères 2012 at the Tour des Templiers, historic center through May 26 and she hopes it will come to the States this year. More of her work and books can be seen here.

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