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They keep things out or enclose them within. They're symbols of power, and a means of control. They're canvases for art, backdrops for street theater, and placards for political messages. They're just waiting for when nobody's looking to receive graffiti. Walls of all kinds demarcate our lives. -- Lane Turner (41 photos total).
Note: You can now follow @bigpicture on the social network App.net, where you own your own data. If you'd like to try it out, we've also got some free invites for our readers.
Workers clean the curtain wall of the 40-story National Bank of Economic Social Development in Rio de Janeiro on December 12, 2012. (Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images)     

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David Von Drehle

In its heyday, horse racing had it all. It was the speed and danger sport before NASCAR came along; movie stars and gangsters rubbed glamorous elbows; and a couple sawbucks on a winning long-shot could put you on Easy Street.

As with all nostalgia, the reality could never match the legend. But there was a current of excitement and passion around horse racing back in the days of fedoras and two-toned shoes. Perhaps the popularity of racing was as simple as the fact that Americans used to grow up around horses and knew them as personalities.

(MORE: Twilight at the Track)

And they are personalities. Some are born with loads of talent, but won’t do the hard work to become a champion. Some love a challenge, and won’t stop working until they win. Some are playful; some are mean. Some are smart; some aren’t. Such traits seared the names of great racers into the public consciousness as deeply as the names of some presidents and some billionaires: Gallant Fox, War Admiral, Citation, Seabiscuit.

The glory days endured through a golden age of racing in the 1970s, when Affirmed battled Alydar to join Seattle Slew and the incomparable Secretariat as winners of the Triple Crown. Since then, a long twilight has settled over the Sport of Kings. Attendance, wagers, purses, and new foals all are in decline. Such storied tracks as Hialeah in Florida, Bay Meadows in California, and Garden State in New Jersey have padlocked their stables and turned out the lights for good.

The causes are many. Competition for the gambling and entertainment dollar is more intense than ever. But even more damaging is the widespread culture of doping in the racing business, and the high rate of fatal breakdowns that goes with it. As these photographs make clear, amid the fading memories of glamor and excitement, the beating heart of the sport is, and always will be, the horse. Whoever wants to save racing must first care about that.

Jehad Nga is a photographer who lives in New York. LightBox previously featured Nga’s Memories of Libya and his Green Book project

David Von Drehle is an editor-at-large for TIME, where he has covered politics, breaking news and the Supreme Court since 2007. He is the author of four books, including Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year, published in 2012, and Triangle: The Fire That Changed America.

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A more honest “Like” button. Image: Webmonkey.

Social sharing buttons — Facebook “Like” buttons and their ilk — are ubiquitous, but that doesn’t mean they’re a good idea.

Designers tend to hate them, calling them “Nascar” buttons since the can make your site look at little bit like a Nascar racing car — every available inch of car covered in advertising. Others think the buttons make you look desperate — please, please like/pin/tweet me — but there’s a much more serious problem with putting Facebook “Like” buttons or Pinterest “Pin It” buttons on your site: your visitors’ privacy.

When you load up your site with a host of sharing buttons you’re — unwittingly perhaps — enabling those companies to track your visitors, whether they use the buttons and their accompanying social networks or not.

There is, however, a slick solution available for those who’d like to offer visitors sharing buttons without allowing their site to be a vector for Facebook tracking. Security expert (and Wired contributor) Bruce Schneier recently switched his blog over to use Social Share Privacy, a jQuery plugin that allows you to add social buttons to your site, but keeps them disabled until visitors actively choose to share something.

With Social Share Privacy buttons are disabled by default. A user needs to first click to enable them, then click to use them. So there is a second (very small) step compared to what the typical buttons offer. In exchange for the minor inconvenience of a second click, your users won’t be tracked without their knowledge and consent. There’s even an option in the preferences to permanently enable the buttons for repeat visitors so they only need to jump through the click-twice hoop once.

The original Social Share Privacy plugin was created by the German website Heise Online, though what Schneier installed is Mathias Panzenböck’s fork, available on GitHub. The fork adds support for quite a few more services and is extensible if there’s something else you’d like to add.

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There are now over one billion automobiles on the road worldwide. An explosion in the auto markets in China and India ensures that number will increase, with China supplanting the United States as the world's largest car market. It's fair to say humanity has a love affair with the car, but it's a love-hate relationship. Cars are at once convenience, art, and menace. People write songs about their vehicles, put them in museums, race them, and wrap their identities up in them. About 15% of carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels comes from cars. Traffic fatality estimates vary from half a million per year to more than double that. Gathered here are images of the automobile in many forms, and our relationship to and dependence on our cars. This is the second in an occasional Big Picture series on transportation, following Pedal power earlier this year. -- Lane Turner (40 photos total)
Antti Rahko stands next to his self-made "Finnjet" during preparations for the Essen Motor Show in Essen, Germany on November 22, 2012. The car rolls on eight wheels, offers ten seats, weighs 3.4 tons and is worth about one million US dollars. (Marius Becker/AFP/Getty Images)

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Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Fort McKay: Sleeping With The Devil

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For thousands of years the Cree and Dene people of the Athabasca River in Northern Alberta have watched, as the tarry sands along their banks oozed into the river and stuck to their feet.

In the 1950s Premier Earnest Manning was devising a plan to detonate an atomic bomb underground, in an attempt to extract these difficult deposits of oil. At that time the Reserve of Fort McKay, situated 63 km North of Fort McMurray, had no roads connecting it to the rest of Canada. They lived from a traditional lifestyle of hunting and trapping, but as 83-year-old elder Zackary Powder says, it’s not like it used to be, everything has changed.

Today the worlds largest and most environmentally destructive oil extraction project, the Alberta Oil Sands, surround them. Where trappers cabins once stood are now toxic lakes of mine tailings, and endless moonscapes that have been stripped of their bitumen-laced sand with electric shovels five stories high.

Aware to the futility of resistance, the people of Fort McKay decided to partner with industry in 1986. Entrepreneurial endeavors, employment and industry compensations have provided economic prosperity the likes of which few Canadian First Nations have experienced. It is said to be the richest reserve in Canada, but the people here know their prosperity is not without consequence. As elder and former Syncrude electrician Norman Simpson says, sometimes you have to sleep with the Devil.

Stories of moose hunts and life in the bush are told with enthusiasm and pride, but, as industry grows, the land succumbs. The rivers and fish are poisoned, their tap water is no longer potable, the animals are keeping their distance, and the quality of wild meat is in question. Cancer, respiratory disease, drug addiction and other illnesses plague the community. In a country where the norm for reserves is high poverty, unemployment and dismal housing, Fort McKay is marketed as a success story, but the people here know the truth is much more complicated.

 

Bio

Aaron Vincent Elkaim (b.1981) is a documentary photographer, whose work has earned international recognition.

Aaron received a BA in Cultural Anthropology and Film Studies in his hometown of Winnipeg, Canada, before he found photography.

Currently based in Toronto, Aaron approaches his subjects through an anthropological lens with a focus on cultural and historical narratives that reflect and inform his own sense of the world. Though born of individual experience, Aaron’s work seeks to provide its audience with new and varied perspectives on the complexities of humanity and its environment.

His work has been exhibited at Fotographia International Photography Festival in Rome, Voices Off Rencontres d’Arles, the NY Photo Festival, and the Reportage Photography Festival in Australia. His Clients include the Globe and Mail, The Canadian Press, and the Wall Street Journal.

Aaron is a founding member of the Boreal Collective.

 

Related links

Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Boreal Collective

 

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<< Previous | Next >>Oracle-Racing-AC72-capsize-05

The Oracle Team USA flipped its AC72 racer on San Francisco Bay, then worked into the wee hours Wednesday hauling the wreckage back to shore. Photo: Guilain Grenier/America's Cup

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Oracle boss Larry Ellison wanted to make the America’s Cup as exciting as Nascar. He’s succeeded.

His team, the defending champs at Oracle Team USA, capsized one of its wickedly fast AC72 catamarans in San Francisco Bay on Tuesday during the team’s eighth day on the water, then scrambled to keep it from drifting out to sea.

“We’ve been pushing the boat all the time and every day we go out we’re pushing it more and more,” team tactician Tom Slingsby told reporters. “We found our limit.”

More on America’s Cup

Video: The World’s Best Sailors Tame The World’s Meanest Boats

America’s Cup Brings Big Beautiful Cats to the Bay

Inside Larry Ellison’s Insane Plan to Make America’s Cup a TV Spectacle

America’s Cup Racers Push Sailboats to the Limit

No kidding.

These boats are fast and mean, designed to be the most demanding sailboats on the water with the most skilled crews on the planet. They don’t use sails, but wings. They’re made largely of carbon fiber, and they’re huge: 72 feet long, with a beam of 46 feet and a mast 131 feet, 7 inches tall. They can hit 30 knots, and it takes 11 people to sail them.

According to the Cup folks, conditions were “fresh,” with 25-knot winds and one of the strongest ebb currents of the year. As the team turned downwind away from San Francisco, the bow dove, the stern rose and the boat pitch-poled.

In other words, it flipped.

“When the nose went down, the wing hit and a few guys went in the water,”  Slingsby said in a statement. “We were unsure if the wing would snap, so we all climbed off the boat.”

The boat slammed into the water on its side, destroying the carbon fiber wing sail and scattering very, very expensive bits of carbon fiber over the bay. No one was injured, but the current pulled the boat through the Golden Gate and out to sea even as the team, joined by a crew dispatched from shore, tried to rein in the wreckage.

“It was amazing — we watched it tip right over, and it looked like the top of the wing came right off,” one witness told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Then the big ebb tide just took it right out under the bridge, and it was obvious there was nothing they could do.”

The team managed to return the boat, or what’s left of it, to shore Wednesday morning. The wing was destroyed and the boat, which costs $8-10 million, needs extensive repairs. The rules allow each team to build two AC72 boats; this was the first of the two launched by Oracle. The second hits the water early next year.

“There’s no question this is a setback. This will be a big test for our team,” said skipper Jimmy Spithill. “But I’ve seen these guys in a similar situation in the past campaign before we won the America’s Cup. A strong team will bounce back from it.”

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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

EPF 2012 Finalist

 

Laia Abril

II Chapter on Eating Disorders ‘THINSPIRATION’

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The Pro Ana community has turned anorexia (Ana) into its dogma. This illness has even been embodied by the members of this group; they venerate it as the one giving meaning to their totalitarian ‘life style’. It’s a virtual reality where they state their commandments, share motivating tricks and exchange hundreds of images of thin models via their blogs. They have created ‘thinspiration’, a new visual language – obsessively consumed to keep on wrestling with the scales day after day.

Looking at their delusions in greater detail, I find out a new symptom in their behavior. Interacting with their own cameras in a competition in which they portray their achievements in the form of bony clavicles or flat bellies, the pro Ana have made thinspiration evolve.

I decide to look for the answer by re-taking their self-portraits with the intention of establishing a conversation between their camera and mine. I shut myself up in a dark room as if it were a model session, placing my tripod in front of the computer in such a way that, when you look through the lens, it’s only me and them. I photograph them in their rooms, in their bathrooms. They pose provocatively, narcissistically.

Pro-anorexis consume in a wicked game between admiration and repulsion: the pro-bones, where the protagonists are anorexic and are at an extreme stage of the illness. The images that I took from then on disassociate themselves from the character to turn into abstract body landscapes at the gates of the abyss. They are the visual response to the bond between obsession and self-destruction; the disappearance of one’s own identity.

‘Thinspiration’ is the second chapter of a long-term project about Eating Disorders I started almost two years ago. Furthermore it is an introspective journey, based in my personal experience, through the nature of obsessive desire and the limits of auto-destruction, denouncing new risk factors within the disease: the social networks and photography.

 

Bio

Laia Abril (Barcelona, 1986) is a documentary photographer and journalist.
Her work has been exhibited and appraised in Italy, Spain, Bosnia, Germany, London and New York on events like NY FotoFestival or the 3rd Lumix Festival. Her editorial work has been published in different international magazines such as D Repubblica, The Sunday Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, FT Magazine or COLORS Magazine, where she has been a member of the editorial staff since 2009, when she enrolled at the Fabrica artists residency – the Benetton research centre in Italy.

In 2010 she joined the agency Reportage by Getty as an emerging talent after being finalist at the Ian Parry Award in 2009/10. Most recently she was selected for the Plat(t)form Winterthur FotoMuseum and nominated at the Joop Swart Masterclass.

She is currently working as a staff photographer, blogger and Associate Picture Editor for COLORS combining her freelance career and keeping developing her personal project.

 

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TENDING TO A LOT
TENDING TO A LOT: Parking attendant Tyler Bounelis sat near an empty lot at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Monday. Heavy rain on Sunday forced Nascar to postpone the Daytona 500 to Monday, the first postponement in its 54-year history. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press)

CONSOLED
CONSOLED: Samantha Kimball hugged her little brother, Daniel, after she picked him up from school in Chardon, Ohio, Monday. A teenager described as an outcast opened fire in the cafeteria of Chardon High School, killing one student and wounding four before being caught, authorities said. (David Maxwell/Corbis/Euoprean Pressphoto Agency)

TESTING, TESTING
TESTING, TESTING: A technician checked phone lines at the European Council headquarters in Brussels Monday. European Union leaders will gather there for a summit March 1-2. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

FIT TO PRINT
FIT TO PRINT: A man read the news Monday in Dakar, Senegal, as the country’s papers covered a presidential election. President Abdoulaye Wade said he expects a runoff; votes in 282 out of 551 districts showed him leading 13 opposition candidates with 32.17% of the vote. (Youssef Boudlal/Reuters)

OSCAR BLISS
OSCAR BLISS: Best actress winner Meryl Streep, of ‘The Iron Lady,’ and best actor winner Jean Dujardin, of ‘The Artist,’ posed with their Oscars at the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood Sunday. (Joel Ryan/Associated Press)

AT THE WHITE HOUSE
AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, wore a button reading ‘Cheer up’ as he listened to President Barack Obama give a speech during the National Governors Association meeting at the White House in Washington Monday. (Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

TRADITIONAL GIRLS
TRADITIONAL GIRLS: Dongria Kondh tribal girls watched sacrifice rituals during the annual festival of Niyam Raja in Lanjigarh, India, Sunday. (Biswaranjan Rout/Associated Press)

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Help us create the world's most authentic racing simulations, enable and organize real-time, online racing, and advance and expand motorsport. We invent and provide the tools and environment to enhance the skills of novice to expert racers worldwide and at the same time create a fun and engaging environment and community.

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make it bounce!

Recently BLITZ was asked about modifying an audio driven flash site we completed a few years ago. In that time, technology on the internet driving rich consumer experiences has shifted from a plugin based platform dominated by Adobe Flash to a reliance on the native capabilities of the browser. This is significant, as it’s now obvious that mobile is the current trend in browsing. The old project utilized flash’s ability to extract sound data from a playing song and displayed an on-the-fly visualization of the data, similar to a visual EQ. This ability does not currently exist in most native JavaScript engines, though it is proposed. It got us thinking whether or not we could get this same effect running on a non-flash mobile browser. Currently IOS doesn’t support the ability to get this data from a sound file. After spending a couple hours thinking through the possibilities, we settled on a solution. We would preprocess the audio file, extracting the sound spectrum data and process that data in the browser.

The jist of the data-extraction process looks like this:

An Air application loads the mp3 file and lets the song play. As it plays, every 100 milliseconds it will grab the sound spectrum and select parts of it to use. Originally we were planning on using all 256 data points from the right channel, but a single 4-minute mp3 file was spitting out an 11 meg JSON file. Obviously this was a tad excessive… So after some tweaking we settled on grabbing 50 data points (every 5 from 0 to 250), which decreased the file size from 11 megs down to 2.5 megs. And trimming the decimal values down to only 3 decimal points (Thank You Nick Vincent for the idea) got it down to 800k, a size we were happy with. At each 100 millisecond marker, we grab the data, and inject it into an object. we use the time in miliseconds as the key (we had to round it to 100 ms) for the object. Once we have the object populated, we then serialize it to JSON and save it as a text file.

Once we had the data it was just a matter of implementation. Drop 50 dots in the DOM, each corresponding do the 50 data points of the sound spectrum, and move them around as the song plays. Implementation can vary, so we didn’t spend any real time cleaning things up for reuse, the purpose was more of a proof of concept. If we were going to get serious about it, we would write a wrapper JS file that you would pass an audio element, and the path to the JSON file. Then you’d hook up your events and let it handle the rest. If anyone has interest in taking this task on please let us know. We’d actually love to build it out time permitting.

You can view the demo here:

http://dino.blitzstaging.com/demos/soundspectrum/

Please note, the demo only works in safari, chrome and IOS (that was the challenge). You could easily rig this to work on firefox, just wasn’t a priority.

And you can get the source here:

https://github.com/dinopetrone/SoundSpectrum

The source has both the air application and a www folder containing the demo. To get the air application running you have to open in flash and build. I didn’t create an actual .air file. You will also have to run sass to compile the css (sorry its just how we do things here at BLITZ)

Coming from the flash world, I was very much sick of sound visualization. So please don’t take this and just create another sound visualizer… that’s lame. If you have any practical use please let me know. Also, one disclamer, all of this needs a good deal of polish. Again, it was just a POC spike.

If you’ve read all the way to the end of this article and are interested in doing work like this, we’re always looking for people to join the technology team. Check out our Careers Page for a list of open positions.

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