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Art that serves a public cause July 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts.
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Sicilian Antonio Presti is committed to bringing beauty and meaning to life through artwork

About 25 years ago, a Sicilian by the name of Antonio Presti embarked upon an ambitious project: the creation of monumental, open-air sculptures along an expanse of public land in the northern part of the island. His vision was that of an idealist, to break down the elitism of art and make it the property of everybody. His aim was also political: It was an act of open defiance against the monopolizing authority of the Mafia, an audacious statement that private initiative and work for the public good could be done without succumbing to corruption. For Presti, art had a political role, not just in Sicily but everywhere. He considered art a social good that should be integrated into people’s lives, making it more pleasant and meaningful.

The sculpture park developed into what is known as the Fiumara d’Arte, fiumara are the dried out river areas found mainly in the southern regions of the country where much of the sculpture has been constructed, a huge, open sculpture park that stretches along some of the most beautiful sites in the Sicilian landscape.

Every single venture that Presti has completed in his native land since then remains rooted in that same premise. His work to upgrade the downgraded district of Librino in the city of Catania through contemporary art projects, his collaboration with the schools of Palermo, the annual festivals that began in the village of Pettineo in the early 90s and, finally, the Atelier sul Mare, an eccentric art hotel which is also referred to as an open museum since most of the rooms are in themselves a complete work of art, are diverse manifestations of the same driving force that began with the continuing project of the Fiumara d’Arte.

Earlier in the summer, people from the arts, international journalists and the local community gathered for a two-day fiesta held in a double celebration: for the inauguration of three new rooms at the Atelier sul Mare and the completion of the restoration of one of the public sculptures, the so-called «Window to the Sea,» a huge, geometric sculpture by Tano Festa which was erected on the beach of Villa Margi near the small town of Castel di Tusa, where the hotel is. From one perspective, the event marked a symbolic victory by Presti over the local authorities. According to a regional law which was passed last year, the Fiumara d’Arte has been recognized as a landscape museum and the state has been made responsible for the conservation of the sculptures. It is a symbolic reconciliation after years of intense conflict between Presti and the state which began in the early 1990s with the arrest of Presti and a legal battle that was to last for years.

The 50-year-old Presti is no ordinary man. The son of an entrepreneur who was involved in the construction business in Sicily during the 1970s, Presti decided to spend his family fortune on a cause that combined art with the common good. His perseverance, his strong sense of a life’s objective and his concern for the public good has won him popularity and respect. The entire lobby of the Atelier sul Mare is covered with wallpaper made of a collage of all the press clippings that have been written about him. Presti loves publicity but he also loves sharing his dreams for art and culture with the public. Each is the flipside to a consistent life attitude.

A patron for the arts is how many people think of Presti. Indeed, he is well-connected with the art world. He has invited well-known artists from all around the globe to turn 14 of the hotel’s 40 rooms into works of art, art also prevails in the «standard» rooms. The three new additions are «The Room of the Water Bearers» a room which alludes to the preciousness of water, a collaboration between Danielle Mitterand, Cristina Bertelli, the artist Agnese Purgatorio and Antonio Presti, «Lunaria, Countryside without Name» a room which resembles a dreamlike, night landscape, realized by Vincenzo Consolo, Ute Pyka and Umberto Leone and «Turkish Bath» which is modeled on Ottoman architecture, designed by Sislej Xhafa.

In each of the hotel’s so-called «artist’s rooms,» one has the feeling of residing within a work of art, not of being surrounded by art as in the usual art hotels. Spending some time at the Atelier is, for certain, a challenging experience but not always an easy one. The room designed by the Chilean filmmaker Raul Ruiz, for example, is a circular, tower-like space painted all black and with just a circular bed in the middle. There are no windows except for a trapdoor in the ceiling that opens electronically. The dark room can be taken to connote self-entrapment, and the ceiling opening the possibility for self-liberation.

A place for introspection, the Atelier sul Mare possesses a bohemian, sophisticated kind of luxury. There are no spaces for lounging, no slick design and no private beaches. The town itself – the seashore part of Castel di Tusa, is a small place with no restaurants or bars catering to tourism.

In a certain way, the Atelier sul Mare expresses a combination of elitist sophistication with a rougher, more down-to-earth quality. The same is true of Presti’s other projects.

Among them, the one carried out in Librino – a district ravaged by violence and poverty, is one of the most challenging. Presti has set himself the goal of lifting the morale of Librino’s inhabitants, particularly of the young people. He plans to hire some of the world’s most famous photographers to take pictures of Librino’s youngsters and to project those images in huge banners along the exterior of the working-class dwellings of the area. His plans also include a museum of contemporary art. Currently, he is collaborating with the local schools.

Projects with the schools of Palermo are also under way. Earlier in the summer, those happening to visit Sicily would have noticed hundreds of banners along the main road leading to Palermo. Mobilized by Presti, the children of Sicily’s capital made paintings on the theme of water in protest against the negligence of Palermo’s mayor in taking action to clean up the Oreto River from its present state as a rubbish dump.

The project is yet one more expression of public art for a public cause. It proves that, away from the art market and the limited world of art galleries and museums, art can serve a broader and more collective function. Perhaps art cannot change the world. But it can hone people’s insight into themselves and others. Little by little, change will follow from there. Grounded in that belief, the life and action of Antonio Presti help to bring art and life closer together. His work illustrates that art and beauty can have an ethical dimension.

For additional info please visit > www.ateliersulmare and www.librino.org

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Dubai skyscraper the world’s tallest July 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture.
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An unfinished skyscraper in the Gulf state of Dubai has become the world’s tallest building, at 141 storeys, its developers say. Emaar Properties said the 512m (1,680ft) Burj Dubai is now taller than Taiwan’s 508m (1,667ft) Taipei 101.

dubai_skyscraper.jpg  The finished building is expected to measure more than 690m (2,227ft), but with its spire the total height could be over 800m (2.640ft). The Burj Dubai is due to be be finished in 2008.

It is thought Burj Dubai will eventually be 693m (2,275ft) tall. Height records are contentious, with dispute over what defines a “building” and what is being measured, height to the top floor or the tower’s antenna. When finished the building is expected to meet the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s four criteria, the height of the structural top, highest occupied floor, the roof’s top, and the spire’s highest point, to become the world’s tallest structure.

“Burj Dubai has now reached 141 storeys, more storeys than any other building in the world,” the company said in a statement.

There is speculation that, spire included, the final height could be more than 800m, but Emaar is keeping structural details secret. When finished, the skyscraper will have more than 160 floors, 56 elevators, apartments, shops, swimming pools, spas, corporate suites, Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani’s first hotel, and an observation platform on the 124th floor.

To qualify as a building, a structure has to have floors and walls all the way to its roof. The tower is also expected to break the record for highest man-made structure, currently held by the wire-assisted KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota, US, which is 628m (2,072ft) tall.

“It’s a symbol of Dubai as a city of the world,” Greg Sang, the project director for Emaar Properties, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Chairman Mohammed Ali Alabbar said Dubai has “resisted the usual and has inspired to build a global icon,” according to AP. “It’s a human achievement without equal.”

Building began on the structure on 21 September 2004, and is expected to be completed in 2008. The spire of the building is expected to be able to be seen from 100km (60 miles) away.

“It’s a fact of life that, at some point, someone else will build a taller building,” Mr Sang said. “There’s a lot of talk of other tall buildings, but five years into Burj Dubai’s construction, no one’s started building them yet.”

Previous skyscraper record-holders include New York’s Empire State Building at 381m (1,250 ft); Shanghai’s Jin Mao Building at 421m (1,381 ft); Chicago’s Sears Tower at 442m (1,451 ft) and Malaysia’s Petronas Towers at 452m (1,483 ft). The CN Tower, in Toronto, Canada, is the world’s tallest freestanding structure, at 553m (1,815.3 ft).

‘Gay’ rally in ex-Soviet Georgia cancelled July 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life.
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An event promoting tolerance and cultural dialogue in Georgia has been cancelled, after rumours spread that it was in fact a gay parade.

The highly influential head of the Georgian Orthodox church spoke out against the event. Organisers said they feared that the participants could have been attacked if it went ahead. Gays have come under attack in former Soviet republics, with the Orthodox Church one of their main critics.

Since false rumours spread that the planned event was a demonstration for homosexual rights, the organisers say they have received large numbers of abusive telephone calls and emails, some making threats of physical violence.

The event was to have been held in the Georgian capital next week as part of a Europe-wide campaign against intolerance, called “all different, all equal”. But it was cancelled on Tuesday amid fears for the safety of the young people taking part. The organisers, a human rights organisation called Century 21, say they are victims of what they describe as disinformation and lies broadcast by Georgian television channels.

The head of the Georgian Orthodox church had also warned that any rally involving sexual minorities would cause widespread offence and possibly lead to physical confrontation.

Georgia is a highly religious country which prides itself on its traditional Christian values. Although homosexuality is legal, it is widely regarded as immoral. Gay rights activists in Georgia say homosexuals are often the targets for abuse and physical violence.

Starbucks signs up Joni Mitchell July 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Drinks News, Music.
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Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell is to follow in the footsteps of Sir Paul McCartney by releasing her next album through the coffee chain Starbucks.

Shine, Mitchell’s first collection of new material since 1998, will be available worldwide in late September.

McCartney’s latest album, Memory Almost Full, was released last month by Hear Music, the label set up by Starbucks and the Concord Music Group. It was played relentlessly in the chain’s stores, selling 447,000 copies. Starbucks says 47% of the albums were purchased in its coffee houses.

Mitchell said her new record was “as serious a work as I’ve ever done”. The 63-year-old wrote nine of the album’s 10 tracks, the exception being an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If. It will be released in the US and Canada on 25 September, and in the rest of the world during the week beginning 24 September.

“Joni’s voice, both in the physical and lyrical sense, is as powerful as ever,” said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment, who also oversees Hear Music. “In addition to her extraordinary songwriting ability, she is a Renaissance artist in every sense and we are honoured to release this timely and exceptionally moving work.”

Shine is actually the Canadian artist’s third release in conjunction with Starbucks. In 2005, Hear Music released a compilation of Mitchell’s favourite music, including Billie Holiday’s Solitude and Chuck Berry’s Johnny Be Good. Another CD saw famous fans like Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan choosing their favourite Joni Mitchell tracks.

Facebook site faces fraud claim July 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet.
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Networking website Facebook is to face legal action on Wednesday in a suit brought by a rival site’s founders.

Three founders of ConnectU say Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea for the site while at Harvard. Facebook has become a global phenomenon with about 31 million users, compared with ConnectU’s 70,000.

A Federal case accuses Mr Zuckerberg of fraud and misappropriation of trade secrets, and asks for ConnectU to be given ownership of Facebook. Last year, Facebook turned down a $1bn offer from Yahoo. Facebook has asked a judge at a Boston district court to dismiss the case.

The ConnectU founders claim that while at college Mr Zuckerberg agreed to finish writing computer code for them, but that he stalled and eventually created Facebook using their ideas.

In court documents, Facebook’s lawyers say that ConnectU’s “broad brush allegations” had no evidence to support them. “Each of them had different interests and activities,” they said. “Only one of them had an idea significant enough to build a great company. That one person was Mark Zuckerberg.”

Like Facebook, ConnectU is designed to connect people online. Users create profiles and can post pictures and messages. The legal action alleges that ConnectU founders Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narenda began developing a networking site in 2002.

They asked Mr Zuckerberg to help finish the code, which he agreed to, they claim. “Such statements were false,” the court documents allege. “Zuckerberg never intended to provide the code and instead intended to breach his promise… and intended to steal the idea.”