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Stanley Kubrick

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Stanley Kubrick’s professional career began April 12, 1945, as the high school junior — with a prolific track record of absences — wandered the streets of the Bronx and snapped a picture of a crestfallen newsstand dealer surrounded by headlines announcing the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As childhood friend Alexander Singer tells the story, Kubrick immediately ran to his home darkroom, which his father had built to encourage the scholastic underachiever’s budding interest in photography, printed the picture and made a sale that same afternoon to Look Magazine. The following year, when no colleges would accept Kubrick because of his poor academic record, Look hired him as a full-time staff photographer.

Singer and Kubrick had forged a bond over shared scholastic apathy and mutual respect of each other’s extracurricular achievements — Singer as editor of the school literary arts magazine, and Kubrick as the kid with a camera around his neck: “almost a caricature of what you’d imagine a teenage cameraman would look like,” as Singer describes. When plans to photograph a feature-length cinematic adaptation of Homer’s Iliad written and directed by Singer proved too ambitious, Kubrick struck upon the idea to instead translate one of his own photographic essays to the big screen.

That essay was Prizefighter, published by Look in January 1949, and described by Kubrick biographer Vincent LoBrutto as the moment he came of age as a photojournalist. The seven-page story depicted scenes from the life of Bronx-born middleweight boxer Walter Cartier as he trained and prepared to enter the ring against moments from his romantic and domestic lives. Often working under stark, overhead light with infrared film (also favored by his idol, Weegee), Kubrick captured high-contrast images that emphasized Walter’s physique and cast brooding, incisive shadows on his face.

Prizefighter would go on to define Kubrick in other ways, though. It might have been his dawning moment as a photojournalist, but the essay would also serve as the basis of the first film Kubrick would direct, called Day at the Fight, released two years later.

The 20-year old Kubrick made the decision to shoot his first film on 35mm rather than the lighter, more economical 16mm format favored by amateurs—a bold decision by someone who later described the entirety of his motion picture camera training as a hands-on demonstration at an equipment house. Kubrick and Singer used Bell & Howell’s Eyemo, a lightweight camera introduced 1926 for use in newsreels and military applications and advertised, perhaps over-optimistically, “as convenient to carry as the average size ‘still’ camera.” Kubrick photographed most of the project solo, and Singer joined on a second ringside camera to capture the live fight scene. A third camera operator also filmed from high in the auditorium.

Comparing the Prizefighter contact sheets side-by-side with Day of the Fight, one gets the sense that much of the creative legwork had been worked out during the photo essay, which, despite its ostensible documentary subject matter, was chiefly constructed through deliberately-staged scenes. But Day of the Fight is a distinctly cinematic work; particularly remarkable is Kubrick’s ability to control time and add an element of suspense in portraying Walter’s anticipation of the fight, a trait missing in Prizefighter. The first-time director was also aided by the fact that the physical spectacle of boxing lends itself to cinema. After all, the first feature-length film ever released was a 1897 St. Patrick’s Day fight between James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Many of the same setups from the contact sheets and short film are repeated in Kubrick’s subsequent work, particularly his second feature, Killer’s Kiss, a seedy yarn about a down-on-his-luck fighter.

Although Kubrick is regarded as the most critically and commercially successful photographer turned full-time feature filmmaker, this mainstream acclaim might also be the reason his name rarely enters the discussion of the legendary New York-based photographers and their progressive contributions to avant garde and non-narrative filmmaking. This tradition includes Paul Strand (Manhatta, 1921), Rudy Burckhardt (The Pursuit of Happiness, 1940) Helen Levitt (In the Street, 1949), Ruth Orkin & Morris Engel (The Little Fugitive, 1953), William Klein (Broadway by Light, 1958) and Robert Frank (Pull My Daisy, 1959), among whose varying innovations include discrete handheld photography, examples of “life caught unawares,” and blurring lines between documentary and staged situations. Kubrick’s perceived youth and inexperience may be another factor in this oversight: though several writers have supported their praise of The Little Fugitive by recalling that the ten-years-senior Engel claimed a 25-year-old Kubrick attempted to rent his uniquely-constructed equipment for his own first feature (Fear and Desire), Kubrick’s production predates The Little Fugitive by several months. Furthermore, much of Kubrick’s early work has not been widely available to the public — per Kubrick’s wishes, Fear and Desire only recently resurfaced after decades of suppression.

One could hardly argue Day of the Fight is a major work in the context of documentary film or Kubrick’s entire oeuvre, but it remains a fascinating key to understanding the development of Kubrick as an artist and entrepreneur—an under-appreciated example of the maverick cinematic approaches developed by street photographers. Undoubtedly, Day of the Fight is one of the most assured and mature endeavors undertaken by someone approaching a film camera for the first time.

Jon Dieringer is an independent curator and the editor and publisher of Screen Slate, a daily online resource for listings and commentary of New York City repertory film and independent media.

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Photo: Nadege Meriau

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At first glance Nadege Meriau‘s photographs appear to be microscopic images, at second glance, apocalyptic landscapes. But in reality they are assembled out of food: fruits, vegetables, bones, meat and more.

The lighting is haunting and carefully constructed with a muted color palette. When studying her images, one starts forming an exit strategy. There is a paradox in them, between pain and pleasure.

Meriau is a Tunisian-born artist who is currently based in London. She received her masters from the Royal College of Art in 2011 and has exhibited her photographs in Europe since 2005. Most recently she was nominated for the Discovery Prize at Les Rencontres d’Arles. In her interview with Raw File below, Meriau discusses her process, intentions and negotiating art versus commercial work.

Wired: Would you say that science is an influence on your work? If so, could you explain how?

Meriau: Yes, the natural sciences, especially biology, are a strong influence. One of the main starting points for this project was my reading of Darwin’s The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits. I am also very interested in biomimicry, especially when it comes to architecture.

Wired: Do you consider your images to be abstract or do you want your audience to immediately understand what you are building? Could you explain the importance of working with food?

Meriau: I want to disorientate the viewer, at least initially, so hopefully the images are not immediately understandable. I’m drawn to edible materials because of their complex textures and colors but also because they are alive and unpredictable as they change with time and temperature.

The transformative, alchemical aspect of growing and cooking food is interesting to me, perhaps because it is akin to the creative process. I also like the idea of exploring everyday edible objects such as a piece of bread or a potato.

Wired: I see that you shoot commercial photography as well as fine art and that you are represented by Wyatt Clarke and Jones. How do you feel about making your work for strictly commercial purposes?

Meriau: I don’t see myself as a commercial photographer but more as an artist who takes on commissions and works collaboratively with art directors, designers and picture editors.

Wyatt Clarke and Jones are known for representing people who didn’t set out to be commercial photographers. They have an understanding of fine art and documentary photography, which makes it possible for me and other photographers to work with them.

I see my art and commercial practices as separate yet entwined: One is research based and the driving force behind everything I do, the other is more indexical and about working collaboratively on a brief. I enjoy both and I see them as feeding of one another as if part of an ecosystem.

Wired: In many of the structures from your current work, the viewer has a sense they are trapped inside these caves. Is this your intention in terms of narrative?

Meriau: My intention is to envelop or draw the viewer into these spaces, not to trap him/her. If you look carefully there is always an exit point, a chance to escape.

Wired: To me your structures seem to represent dwellings, are they a comment on the nature of “Home”?

Meriau: I’m interested in the duality of the concepts of food and home and how both can be seen as safe, nurturing, life-giving or unsafe, destructive and poisonous.

Wired: Who are your artistic influences?

Meriau: Jules Verne, Stanley Kubrick, Werner Herzog, Marx Ernst, Salvador Dali, Theodore Gericault, Caspar Friedrich, William Turner, Alex Hartley, Louise Bourgeois, Anya Gallacio, Sarah Lucas … to name a few!

Wired: What is next for you? Will it involve food?

Meriau: Food is vast territory that I’m only beginning to explore. Ideas for future projects involve a mushroom-based installation and a collaboration with a beekeeper and his bees.

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Fair warning: this is a blog post about automated cat feeders. Sort of. But bear with me, because I'm also trying to make a point about software. If you have a sudden urge to click the back button on your browser now, I don't blame you. I don't often talk about cats, but when I do, I make it count.

We've used automated cat feeders since 2007 with great success. (My apologies for the picture quality, but it was 2007, and camera phones were awful.)


Feeding your pets using robots might sound impersonal and uncaring. Perhaps it is. But I can't emphasize enough how much of a daily lifestyle improvement it really is to have your pets stop associating you with ritualized, timed feedings. As my wife so aptly explained:

I do not miss the days when the cats would come and sit on our heads at 5 AM, wanting their breakfast.

Me neither. I haven't stopped loving our fuzzy buddies, but this was also before we had onetwothree children. We don't have a lot of time for random cat hijinks these days. Anyway, once we set up the automated feeders in 2007, it was a huge relief to outsource pet food obsessions to machines. They reliably delivered a timed feeding at 8am and 8pm like clockwork for the last five years. No issues whatsoever, other than changing the three D batteries about once a year, filling the hopper with kibble about once a month, and an occasional cleaning.

Although they worked, there were still many details of the automated feeders' design that were downright terrible. I put up with these problems because I was so happy to have automatic feeders that worked at all. So when I noticed that the 2012 version of these feeders appeared to be considerably updated, I went ahead and upgraded immediately on faith alone. After all, it had been nearly five years! Surely the company had improved their product a bit since then … right? Well, a man can dream, can't he?


When I ordered the new feeders, I assumed they would be a little better than what I had before.


The two feeders don't look so radically different, do they? But pay attention to the details.

  • The food bowl is removable. It drove me crazy that the food bowl in the old version was permanently attached, and tough to clean as a result.
  • The food bowl has rounded interior edges. As if cleaning the non-removable bowl of our old version wasn't annoying enough, it also had sharp interior edges, which tended to accrete a bunch of powdered food gunk in there over time. Very difficult to clean properly.
  • The programming buttons are large and easy to press. In the old version, the buttons were small watch-style soft rubber buttons that protruded from the surface. The tactile feedback was terrible, and they were easy to mis-press because of their size and mushiness.
  • The programming buttons are directly accessible on the face of the device. For no discernable reason whatsoever, the programming buttons in the old version were under a little plastic clear protective "sneeze guard" flap, which you had to pinch up and unlock with your thumb before you could do any programming at all. I guess the theory was that a pet could somehow accidentally brush against the buttons and do … something … but that seems incredibly unlikely. But most of all, unnecessary.
  • The programming is easier. We never changed the actual feed schedule, but just changing the time for daylight savings was so incredibly awkward and contorted we had to summarize the steps from the manual on a separate piece of paper as a "cheat sheet". The new version, in contrast, makes changing the time almost as simple as it should be. Almost.
  • There is an outflow cover flap. By far the number one physical flaw of the old feeder: the feed slot invites curious paws, and makes it all too easy to fish out kibble on demand. You can see in my original photo that we had to mod the feed slot to tape (and eventually bolt) a wire soap dish cover over it so the cats wouldn't be able to manual feed. The new feeder has a perfectly aligned outflow flap that I couldn't even dislodge with my finger. And it works; even our curious-est cat wasn't able to get past it.
  • The top cover rotates to lock. On the old feeder, the top cover to the clear kibble storage was a simple friction fit; dislodging it wasn't difficult, and the cats did manage to do this early on with some experimentation. On the new feeder, the cover is slotted, and rotates to lock against the kibble storage securely. This is the same way the kibble feeder body locks on the base (on both old and new feeders), so it's logical to use this same "rotate to lock into or out of position" design in both places.
  • The feed hopper is funnel shaped. The old feed hopper was a simple cylinder, and holds less in the same space as a result. When I transferred the feed over from the old full models (we had literally just filled them the day before) to the updated ones, I was able to add about 15-20 percent more kibble despite the device being roughly the same size in terms of floor space.
  • The base is flared. Stability is critical; depending how adventurous your cats are, they may physically attack the feeders and try to push them over, or hit them hard enough to trigger a trickle of food dispensing. A flared base isn't the final solution, but it's a big step in the right direction. It's a heck of a lot tougher to knock over a feeder with a bigger "foot" on the ground.
  • It's off-white. The old feeder, like the Ford Model T, was available in any color customers wanted, so long as it was black. Which meant it did a great job of not blending in with almost any decor, and also showed off its dust collection like a champ. Thank goodness the new model comes in "linen".

These are, to be sure, a bunch of dumb, nitpicky details. Did the old version feed our cats reliably? Yes, it did. But it was also a pain to clean and maintain, a sort of pain that I endured weekly, for reasons that made no sense to me other than arbitrarily poor design choices. But when I bought the new version of the automated feeder, I was shocked to discover that nearly every single problem I had with the previous generation was addressed. I felt as if the Petmate Corporation™ was actually listening to all the feedback from the people who used their product, and actively refined the product to address our complaints and suggestions.

My point, and I do have one, is that details matter. Details matter, in fact, a hell of a lot. Whether in automatic cat feeders, or software. As my friend Wil Shipley once said:

This is all your app is: a collection of tiny details.

This is still one of my favorite quotes about software. It's something we internalized heavily when building Stack Overflow. Getting the details right is the difference between something that delights, and something customers tolerate.

Your software, your product, is nothing more than a collection of tiny details. If you don't obsess over all those details, if you think it's OK to concentrate on the "important" parts and continue to ignore the other umpteen dozen tiny little ways your product annoys the people who use it on a daily basis – you're not creating great software. Someone else is. I hope for your sake they aren't your competitor.

The details are hard. Everyone screws up the details at first, just like Petmate did with the first version of this automatic feeder. And it's OK to screw up the details initially, provided …

  • you're getting the primary function more or less right.
  • you're listening to feedback from the people who use your product, and actively refining the details of your product based on their feedback every day.

We were maniacal about listening to feedback from avid Stack Overflow users from the earliest days of Stack Overflow in August 2008. Did you know that we didn't even have comments in the first version of Stack Overflow? But it was obvious, based on user feedback and observed usage, that we desperately needed them. There are now, at the time I am writing this, 1,569 completed feature requests; that's more than one per day on average.

Imagine that. Someone who cares about the details just as much as you do.

[advertisement] Stack Overflow Careers matches the best developers (you!) with the best employers. You can search our job listings or create a profile and even let employers find you.

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 Katsuhiro Otomo's Gengaten

The man behind the seminal work in Japanimation is back with a 3,000-piece exhibition of original artwork, a new short film, and plans for a new manga series.

In Japan, manga and anime are seemingly everywhere and all-encompassing — something grown men and women indulge in without a second thought. At 3331 Arts Chiyoda, a former junior high school turned art gallery near Akihabara Station, the man who defined these artforms for a generation of readers and viewers is front and center. Katsuhiro Otomo, the mind and hands behind Akira, is posing for photos with giggling, excited visitors. Otomo is here to unveil his Gengaten — an exhibition of 3,000 of the pieces he's produced over his 39 years as an illustrator; among them are the...

Continue reading…

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[Video Link]

Mike Springer from Open Culture says:

Terry Gilliam has never tried to hide his feelings about Hollywood. “It’s an abominable place,” he told The New York Times in 2005. “If there was an Old Testamental God, he would do his job and wipe the place out. The only bad thing is that some really good restaurants would go up as well.”

One thing that bothers Gilliam about Hollywood is the pressure it exerts on filmmakers to resolve their stories into happy endings. In this interesting clip from an interview he did a few years ago with Turner Classic Movies, Gilliam makes his point by comparing the work of Steven Spielberg–perhaps the quintessential Hollywood director–with that of Stanley Kubrick, who, like Gilliam, steered clear of Hollywood and lived a life of exile in England. Kubrick refused to pander to our desire for emotional reassurance. “The great filmmakers,” says Gilliam, “make you go home and think about it.”

Terry Gilliam criticizes Spielberg and Schindler's List

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To put the legacy of Stanley Kubrick into perspective, he made 13 movies in 46 years. In about the same amount of time, though not the same years, Alfred Hitchcock – also considered one of the masters – made over 50 films, equally about one per year. Martin Scorsese is approaching roughly the same number as Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg is on a similar pace. Even international legends like Francois Truffaut, Akira Kurosawa and Sergei Eisenstein, who all made films less frequently than those men, were much busier than Kubrick. Yet, with only 13 films in about five decades, Stanley Kubrick’s name will always be spoken alongside those as a first ballot film hall of famer. One of the best of the best.

In 1996, a documentary called Stanley Kubrick: The Invisible Man attempted to put this mysterious, reclusive, but brilliant film director into perspective and you can now watch the entire thing online.

Thanks to The Behind the Scenes Blog for the heads up. We’ve embedded part one and you can watch the additional five parts (making six total and running about an hour) at that link.

While it’s sad that Kubrick made so few films before his passing in 1999, the plus side is – because there are so few -  it’s easy to digest his entire body of work. At NYU I took a class on Kubrick and, in one semester, we watched 12 of his 13 films, missing only his first feature, the rare Fear and Desire.

Besides the obvious directorial shown in his editing, shooting and composition of shots, not to mention his ability to get incredible performances out of his actors and more, the one thing that always fascinated me about Kubrick was he never made the same film twice. It was almost as if he made a movie in one genre, mastered it, then moved along. He was like a video game player directing movies, always leveling up. “Oh, I defeated the World War II movie, let’s move onto the sword and sandal epic. Oh I beat that, let’s move on to the comedy, the sci-fi, the thriller, the horror” and so on.

Where you do rank Kubrick in your all time list?

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These are behind the scene photos of some of the classic films of all time. They were taken by Photographer Angus Shamal. Many of them show a few of the tricks of making a movie.



What Goes on Behind the Scenes?

Filming the giant Pillsbury Doughboy scene

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Did you know that Stanley Kubrick was a photojournalist? I had no idea until I came across these incredible photographs of the Windy City! #gobulls

“Before he started making movies, Stanley Kubrick was a star photojournalist. In the summer of 1949, Look magazine sent him to Chicago to shoot pictures for a story called “Chicago City of Contrasts.” Chicago Tribune

Will Bryant for PUBLIC SCHOOL, 2011. | Permalink | One footnote

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