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30/06/2018
by MediaExpert
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Exhibit Showcases Delicate Beauty of US Botanical Art

Botanical artist Carol Malone-Brown is seated, bent forward, intently concentrating on a painting she is working on of a green apple with leaves.

She carefully puts a small amount of paint on one leaf using the “dry brush” method — mixing tiny drops of water with watercolors and then using a paintbrush to draw short, fine lines. She will sit at her desk, painting this leaf for many days to get the shades of light and dark just right.

While many people might find this tedious, for Malone-Brown, creating botanical art is “very soothing and meditative.” She draws inspiration from her beautiful garden, filled with a variety of plants at her home in Alexandria, Virginia. This allows her to combine her love of plants with botanical art, painting only what she grows.

Botanical art combines art with science because each piece must have botanically accurate details. 

“The garden is like your laboratory,” Malone-Brown explained. “I mean you can run in and out, and maybe you’re in there drawing and painting, and you’re saying to yourself, ‘How does that leaf connect to the stem exactly?’”

Her images, which are mostly watercolors, show the delicate beauty of plant species.

A garden of botanical art

Malone-Brown’s art is being showcased, along with 45 other pieces, at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington. It’s part of a series of botanical art exhibits worldwide, featuring native plants in 25 countries, including China, South Africa, Indonesia, Russia and Colombia. The idea is not only to highlight botanical art but the great diversity of plants.

Malone-Brown’s painting of a Virginia strawberry plant is on display at the U.S. show, white flowers and red strawberries that look good enough to eat.

“To be authentic,” she said, “I had to make sure that the plant actually flowered and produced fruit at the same time.”

It took her four hours each day for five months to complete the image. She painted it on vellum, a parchment made from calfskin, which gives the image a lovely luminescence.

The Botanic Garden art exhibit also features other flora, like the saguaro cactus of the U.S. Southwest, the bigleaf maple tree from the West Coast, and a variety of flowers, including violets and sunflowers. A sunny orchid, called a yellow lady slipper, was painted by well-known botanical artist Carol Woodin, who also serves as exhibitions director for the American Society of Botanical Artists.

Distinctive styles

Woodin says every artist has a distinctive style. 

“Some tell a story, others capture a moment in time, or study a plant and focus on each stage of its growth,” she said.

Besides watercolor, oil, colored pencil and etching were used to create the pieces on display.

Botanical artist Alice Tangerini used pen and ink. She is the only botanical illustrator for the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s botany department in Washington. For more than four decades, Tangerini has been drawing meticulous botanical images that scientists use for research.

She said photos cannot capture details the same way botanical drawings do.

“Every time I’m making a line it’s a little bit exciting,” she said. “You see a leaf or flower that is different from any other, or a small portion of a seed.”

Like other botanical artists, Malone-Brown said there is pleasure in the process of painting the plants.

“They are our best friends,” she joked. “You truly have to love a plant that you paint because you’re going to spend a lot of time with it!”

29/06/2018
by MediaExpert
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Agony, Ecstasy Loom as Penalty Shootouts Come into Play at World Cup

Football’s cruel mistress — the penalty shootout — arrives at the World Cup on Saturday after a packed fortnight of group games, ready to dispense her characteristic doses of unbridled joy and heartbreak in the knockout stages.

There has been a penalty shootout at every World Cup since 1982 in Spain, and while it is still a matter of contention whether this is the best way to decide a winner, the post-match shootout is now common at all levels of the game.

But the consequences of failure are nowhere more devastating than at a World Cup, where two previous finals and five semi-finals have been decided by the gut-wrenching lottery of penalties.

Inevitably it is the misses that are best remembered, none more so than Italy’s Roberto Baggio blasting over the bar to hand Brazil the World Cup in 1994 or Chris Waddle with a similarly wild and wayward effort for England in the semi-final four years later.

In all, 26 World Cup clashes have needed penalties to produce a winner, although only twice have they gone past the first stage of five kicks each.

Of the 16 teams in the second round in Russia starting Saturday, all but four have had past experience of a World Cup shootout.

Argentina should be the most confident, having been involved in more World Cup shootouts than any other country and winning four out of five.

Brazil have won three of four, including the 1994 final in Los Angeles, and France two of four, losing to Italy in the deciding game in Berlin in 2006.

But for the likes of England, Mexico and Switzerland the prospect of progress in Russia hinging on spot kicks will verge on the terrifying.

England have lost all three of their shootouts, and Mexico two out of two. The Swiss, bucking the national stereotype of calm efficiency, failed to convert any of their kicks in their one previous shootout, going out to Ukraine in the last 16 in Cologne in 2006.

For Colombia, Croatia, Denmark and Russia it will be a new World Cup experience if they are forced into the post-match tie breaker, although the Danes succeeded in the semi-finals on their way to their shock European Championship success in 1992.

Conversion rate

In the entire World Cup finals history, there have been a total of 240 post-match penalties taken, with 170 of them scored.

That is a decent conversion rate given the gut-thumping tension that always goes with the shootouts. The stress of nail-biting fans in the stands has nothing on the pressure felt by the players involved, many of whom often cannot bare to look while their colleagues step up to take their shots.

Penalty shootouts were first introduced at the 1978 World Cup but were not needed until four years later. Before that, an even more unsatisfactory toss of the coin was used to break the deadlock.

One consolation for the teams now faced with the prospect of penalties in Russia is that they will not have to face Germany.

Their 100 percent record in World Cup shootouts remains intact due to their unexpectedly early departure.

29/06/2018
by MediaExpert
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‘This Is Congo’ Explores Everyday Voices Amid Conflict

“To grow up as a child in Congo, according to God’s will, is to grow up in paradise,” Col. Mamadou Ndala says in the opening scenes of “This Is Congo,” a film making its theatrical release Friday in the United States.

Strolling outside the eastern city of Goma where he is stationed, Ndala adds: “Perhaps because of the will of man, growing up in Congo is to grow up in misery because of these endless, unjust wars imposed on the people.”

Congo has been in the headlines as it faces its latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, and as a long-delayed presidential election is set for December. Dozens of armed groups continue to wreak deadly havoc on the vast, mineral-rich nation.

“This Is Congo,” directed and filmed by former photojournalist Daniel McCabe, gives an insider’s view on the diverse lives behind the headlines. It follows four people — a military commander, a mineral dealer, a tailor and a high-ranking, anonymous military intelligence officer — to show the humanity in the middle of crisis.

Traveling around the Kivu regions in the east, McCabe sought to explore the root causes of conflict in Congo. He ended up on the front lines of fighting between the army and M23 rebels as they marched into Goma in 2012 and were pushed out the following year. He gained unprecedented access through Ndala, the film’s main subject.

Though filming mostly took place in 2012 and 2013 the scenes of fighting appear timeless, reflecting Congo’s continuous upheaval as some soldiers are recruited by ever-changing rebel groups and later reintegrated back into the army, which is poorly organized and badly paid.

“This is a revolving cycle of conflict,” McCabe told The Associated Press. “The film to me is about the banality of war and the corruption of man. Our hope is that the audience can identify with the characters.”

Another of the four main characters is Mama Romance, who turned to selling gemstones to support her family, eventually sending her children to good schools and breaking the cycle of poverty. The dangerous work, as she crosses borders to sell, shows how entrepreneurial Congolese make money from the rich mineral resources around them. Often the proceeds from exports never trickle down.

“This Congo” also follows Hakiza Nyantaba, a tailor who has been displaced for years by conflict, as he ekes out a life at the kind of camp that is home to many Congolese. As of January 4.5 million people had been displaced, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

“It seems God has forgotten us,” Nyantaba says.

McCabe honors his resilience.

“There are displacement camps where people have been living for 20 years. It’s unfathomable,” the filmmaker said.

Alleged corruption by officials and mining companies in part drives the fighting in Congo, which has trillions of dollars of mineral deposits ranging from diamonds and zinc to copper and tin.

“This is Congo” makes clear that civilians are the victims.

McCabe, who clearly adores the complexities of Congo, said he wants the film’s viewers to “dig up more information on their own . read more books, have more interest in the area.” He urged people to “broaden their gaze.”

The film premiered in September at the Venice Film Festival but will release on Friday in theaters in New York City, Los Angeles and other U.S. cities. It also is being released on the BBC in the UK on iTunes in more than 70 countries.

“This is Congo” also will screen in Goma on July 15 on the closing night of the Congo International Film Festival.

29/06/2018
by MediaExpert
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Bob Mackie Gowns Worn by Carol Burnett, Cher up for Auction

Gowns and ensembles worn by Carol Burnett, Cher and Raquel Welch are going up on the auction block.

The clothing was created by 78-year-old fashion and costume designer Bob Mackie, who has been honored for his work in motion pictures, television and the fashion industry.

Julien’s Auctions says the highlights include two gowns that were worn by Burnett and a pair of Punch and Judy costumes that she and Joel Grey wore on her CBS program.

There’s a hand-painted silk ensemble that Cher wore to the 1974 Academy Awards, along with a gown that Raquel Welch wore.

The exhibition will be displayed aboard the ocean liner Queen Mary 2 on an Aug. 19 trans-Atlantic crossing before the auction takes place in Los Angeles at Julien’s on Nov. 17.

 

28/06/2018
by MediaExpert
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Atlanta to Bring Human Rights Murals to City for Super Bowl

In the months leading up to the 2019 Super Bowl, some of Atlanta’s bare walls will get a makeover.

The city of Atlanta and the Super Bowl Host Committee have partnered with arts group WonderRoot to launch “Off the Wall.” The project will create up to 30 murals focusing on Atlanta’s past, present and future role in civil and human rights. Brett Daniels, chief operating officer of the host committee, said the murals will transform the city in hopes of sparking a community-wide conversation. 

The artwork will start going up this fall and will remain as a permanent part of Atlanta’s cultural scene after the game. Students from Freedom University, which provides services for immigrant students in the country illegally, will aid in the design and installation of the murals.

28/06/2018
by MediaExpert
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Meek Mill’s Attorneys Resume Effort to Get Judge Removed

Attorneys for Meek Mill are asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to remove a Philadelphia judge from his case days after she denied his new trial request.

In a filing late Wednesday, the rapper’s attorneys say Judge Genece Brinkley’s actions in court showed she had an opinion before hearing Mill’s request. It also says by requiring a hearing and strenuously cross-examining a witness, she strayed from how other judges had treated similar requests.

The court split on a previous request to remove Brinkley.

The district attorney’s office has agreed Mill should get a new trial, and Mill’s attorneys also are asking the Supreme Court to grant one.

Mill has asked that his decade-old drug and gun convictions be thrown out because of credibility issues with the officer who testified against him.

28/06/2018
by MediaExpert
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Photo Shows Kristen Wiig in Museum for ‘Wonder Woman’ Sequel

Kristen Wiig doesn’t look much like a villain in a photo released for Wonder Woman 1984.

Director Patty Jenkins on Wednesday tweeted the first look at Wiig as Wonder Woman’s foe, Cheetah. Wiig is dressed as Barbara Minerva, the mortal who morphs into a powerful nemesis. Wiig’s character is shown standing in what appears to be a natural history museum, looking at taxidermy.

Gal Gadot returns as Wonder Woman, and Chris Pine reprises his Steve Trevor role.

Wonder Woman 1984 is the fourth movie featuring Gadot as the title character. It is due in theaters in November 2019.

27/06/2018
by MediaExpert
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Jackson Family Patriarch Dies at 89

Joe Jackson, the fearsome stage dad of Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and their talented siblings, who took his family from poverty and launched a musical dynasty, died Wednesday. He was 89.

Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg told The Associated Press that Joe Jackson died at Nathan Adelson Hospice in Las Vegas.

Fudenberg said he did not have full details, and a determination was not immediately made about whether his office would handle the case.

“We are reviewing the circumstances surrounding the death, but there is no reason to believe it’s anything other than a natural death,” the coroner said.

Jackson was a guitarist who put his own musical ambitions aside to work in the steel mills to support his wife and nine children in Gary, Indiana. But he far surpassed his own dreams through his children, particularly his exceptionally gifted seventh child, Michael. Fronted by the then-pint-sized wonder and brothers Jermaine, Marlon, Tito and Jackie, the Jackson 5 was an instant sensation in 1969 and became the first phase of superstardom for the Jackson family. Over the following decades, millions would listen to both group and solo recordings by the Jackson 5 (who later became known as The Jacksons) and Michael would become one of the most popular entertainers in history.

Joe Jackson died two days after the nine-year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. 

The King of Pop’s estate released a statement mourning the death.

“We are deeply saddened by Mr. Jackson’s passing and extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Katherine Jackson and the family. Joe was a strong man who acknowledged his own imperfections and heroically delivered his sons and daughters from the steel mills of Gary, Indiana, to worldwide pop superstardom,” said John Branca and John McClain, co-executors of the estate.

“Papa Joe,” as he would become known, ruled through his stern, intimidating and unflinching presence, which became so indelible it was part of black popular culture, even referenced in song and on TV. 

“This is bad, real bad Michael Jackson, Now I’m mad, real mad Joe Jackson,” Kanye West rhymed in Keri Hilson’s 2009 hit, “Knock You Down.”

Michael and other siblings would allege physical abuse at their father’s hands.

“We’d perform for him and he’d critique us. If you messed up, you got hit, sometimes with a belt, sometimes with a switch. My father was real strict with us – real strict,” Michael Jackson wrote in his 1985 autobiography, “Moonwalk.”

La Toya Jackson would go as far as to accuse him of sexual abuse in the early 1990s, when she was estranged from her entire family, but she later recanted, saying her former husband had coerced her to make such claims. She and her father later reconciled.

By the time they were adults, most of the Jackson siblings had dismissed him as their manager; Michael and Joseph’s relationship was famously fractured; Michael Jackson revered his mother, Katherine, but kept his distance from Joseph. 

However, during some of his son’s most difficult times, including his 2004 molestation trial, Joseph was by his side, and Michael acknowledged their complicated relationship in a 2001 speech about healthy relationships between parents and their children:

“I have begun to see that even my father’s harshness was a kind of love, an imperfect love, to be sure, but love nonetheless. He pushed me because he loved me. Because he wanted no man ever to look down at his offspring,” he said. “And now with time, rather than bitterness, I feel blessing. In the place of anger, I have found absolution. And in the place of revenge I have found reconciliation. And my initial fury has slowly given way to forgiveness.”

In his autobiography, Joseph Jackson acknowledged having been a stern parent, saying he believed it was the only way to prepare his children for the tough world of show business. However, he always denied physically abusing his children.

Joseph Walter Jackson was born in Fountain Hill, Arkansas, on July 26, 1928, the eldest of four children. His father, Samuel Jackson, was a high school teacher, and his mother, Crystal Lee King, was a housewife.

In a 2003 interview with Martin Bashir, Michael Jackson teared up when discussing the alleged abuse, saying he would sometimes vomit or faint at the sight of his father because he was so scared of him.

“We were terrified of him. Terrified, I can’t tell you I don’t think to this day he realizes how scared, scared,” said Jackson, who added that his father would only allow him to call him by his first name, not “daddy.”

The alleged abuse wasn’t just physical. Michael Jackson, who drastically changed his face with plastic surgery through the years, talked several times about how his father would mock the size of his once-broad nose, calling him “big nose.”

After Michael’s death, Joseph Jackson sued when it was disclosed that he wasn’t included in Michael’s will. Michael’s mother, Katherine, was given custody of Michael’s three children and the money to support them. But none of the siblings were named as heirs.

Father and son seemed to have reconciled for a time when Michael Jackson was on trial on child molestation charges. His father was in court to lend him support nearly every day, and Michael was acquitted of all counts in 2005. But he left the country and when he returned, they weren’t close.

Toward the end of his life, Michael did not allow his father to visit his Holmby Hills home. Bodyguards said they turned away Joseph Jackson when he appeared at the gate wanting to visit his grandchildren.

By 2005, no longer involved in his children’s careers, Joseph Jackson had launched a boot camp for aspiring hip-hop artists, promoting lyrics without vulgarity and sponsoring competitions for young artists from across the country. He spent most of his time at a home in Las Vegas and traveled the country auditioning talent for the competition.

For many years before that, he and his wife had lived in an estate they built in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley where he had hoped his children would remain with him at least until they were married and perhaps even afterward. But there were estrangements, and Jackson, a dandy who wore a pencil-thin mustache and huge diamond pinky ring, faced allegations by his wife of infidelity. She filed for divorce twice but never followed through.

“We just let our troubles die out,” Jackson said in 1988, following a reconciliation. “We survived. We love each other, and we have children. That’s why we’re together.”

When Dr. Conrad Murray went on trial in 2010, charged in Michael’s overdose death from propofol, Joseph and Katherine attended court with several of Michael’s siblings. Murray’s conviction of involuntary manslaughter provided some measure of comfort for the family.

Joe Jackson is survived by his wife, his children and more than two dozen grandchildren.

27/06/2018
by MediaExpert
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Exhibition Explores Michael Jackson as Artists’ Inspiration

A new art exhibition in London depicts Michael Jackson as a savior, a saint, an entertainer, an icon, a monarch, a mask and a mystery.

The National Portrait Gallery show, opening Thursday, reveals the extent to which contemporary artists have been drawn to the late King of Pop, as an artistic inspiration, a tragic figure and a fascinating enigma.

Gathering work by 48 artists from around the world, the show includes Jackson-inspired paintings, photographs, videos, textiles and ceramics. It ranges from 1980s pop-art portraits by Andy Warhol and Keith Haring to David LaChapelle’s depictions of a Christ-like Jackson and Kehinde Wiley’s vast portrait of the entertainer as a king on horseback.

Curator Nicholas Cullinan said Wednesday that, nine years after Jackson’s death, the show explores “how he could mean so many different things to so many people.”

Jackson had already been a child star when he became an international icon in 1983 with the release of “Thriller,” one of the best-selling albums of all time. His music, moves, style and innovations in staging and video had a huge impact on popular culture. He also struggled with the limelight, and died in 2009 of a prescription drug overdose at age 50.

The exhibition includes works that reflect on what Jackson meant to his fans, his place in African-American culture, the way he manipulated fame — and the way fame manipulated him.

 U.S. artist Todd Gray, who worked for Jackson as a photographer in the 1970s and 80s, recalled him as a sweet-natured youth — “If he stepped on an ant, he would cry” — but also someone keenly aware of his image. He remembered Jackson refusing to change his mismatched socks for a photo shoot, saying: “`People will talk. That’s what I want.'”

Gray has reworked his old photos by layering other pictures over Jackson’s face, including images from Ghana, where the artist has a home.

“It’s my way to place Michael in the African diaspora,” he said.

The show has the support of Jackson’s family, though not all the works are flattering. American artist Jordan Wolfson shows nothing but Jackson’s darting, blinking eyes, taken from a 1993 TV interview in which the star denied child molestation allegations.

Several works depict Jackson in a mask, most famously Mark Ryden’s cover art for the “Dangerous” album. Isaac Lythgoe has turned that image of Jackson’s masked eyes into a plush headboard.

Other images are heroic. German artist Isa Genzken juxtaposes Jackson and Michelangelo’s David. Wiley — who has also painted Barack Obama’s official portrait — depicts Jackson in armor on horseback, in a painting modeled on Peter Paul Rubens’ portrait of King Philip II of Spain. The portrait was the last one Jackson commissioned, and was completed after his death.

One work, filling a whole room, focuses not on Jackson but on his fans. South African artist Candice Breitz filmed 16 German-speaking Jackson fans of myriad ages and races, singing “Thriller.” It’s an engaging and moving work that shows just how much Jackson means to those who love his music.

Scottish artist Donald Urquhart, who created an illustrated Michael Jackson alphabet for the exhibition, thinks Jackson’s “manipulation of fame” has inspired many artists. But he says Jackson will be most widely remembered for his boundary-crossing music.

“I’ve been to tiny villages in Sumatra where they just play Michael Jackson all day long,” Urquhart said. “They don’t speak English, but there’s something in his music that is beyond language.”

“Michael Jackson: On the Wall” runs in London from Thursday until October 21. It moves to the Grand Palais in Paris from November to Feburary, then travels to the Bonn, Germany and Espoo, Finland.

27/06/2018
by MediaExpert
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Field to Fingertips: Tech Divide Narrows for World Cup Teams

As gigabytes of data flow from field to fingertips, click by click, the technological divide has been closing between teams at the World Cup.

While the focus has been on the debut of video assistant referees, less obvious technical advances have been at work in Russia and the coaches have control over this area, at least. 

No longer are the flashiest gizmos to trace player movements and gather data the preserve of the best-resourced nations. All World Cup finalists have had an array of electronic performance and tracking systems made available to them by FIFA.

“We pay great attention to these tools,” Poland coach Adam Nawalka said. “Statistics play an important role for us. We analyze our strength and weaknesses.”

The enhanced tech at the teams’ disposal came after football’s law-making body — on the same day in March it approved VAR — approved the use of hand-held electronic and communications equipment in the technical area for tactical and coaching purposes. That allows live conversations between the coaches on the bench and analysts in the stands, a change from the 2014 World Cup when the information gathered from player and ball tracking systems couldn’t be transmitted in real-time from the tribune.

“It’s the first time that they can communicate during the match,” FIFA head of technology Johannes Holzmueller told The Associated Press. “We provide the basic and most important metrics to the teams to be analyzed at the analysis desk. There they have the opportunity either to use the equipment provided by FIFA or that they use their own.”

The KPI — key performance indicators — fed by tracking cameras and satellites provide another perspective when coaches make judgments on substitutions or tactical switches if gaps exposed on the field are identified.

“These tools are very practical, they give us analysis, it’s very positive,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. “They provide us with insight. They complement the tools we already have. It improves our work as coaches, and it will help footballers too. I think technologies are a very positive thing.”

 It’s not just about success in games. Player welfare can be enhanced with high-tech tools to assess injuries in real time allowed for use by medics at this World Cup. Footage of incidents can now be evaluated to supplement any on-field diagnosis, particularly concussion cases.

A second medic “can review very clearly, very concretely what happened on the field, what the doctor sitting on the bench perhaps could not see,” FIFA medical committee chairman Michel D’Hooghe said.

Pekerman is pleased “football is advancing very quickly.” Too quickly, though, for some coaches who are more resistant to the growing role for machines rather than the mind. 

“Football is evolving and these tools help us on the tactical and physiological side,” Senegal coach Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said. “We do look at it with my staff, but it doesn’t really have an impact on my decision making.”

Hernan Dario Gomez, coach of World Cup newcomer Panama, has reviewed the data feeds. But ultimately the team has been eliminated in the group stage after facing superior opponents.

“This is obviously very important information, but not more important than the actual players,” Gomez said. “We think first and foremost about the players and the teamwork that is done.”

 The data provided on players by FIFA is still reliant the quality of analysts interpreting it.

 “You can have millions of data points, but what are you doing with it?” Holzmueller said. “At the end even if you’re not such a rich country you could have a very, very clever good guy who is the analyst who could get probably more out of it than a country of 20 analysts if they don’t know really how they should read the data and what they should do with it.

“So it’s really up to each team and also up to each coach because we realize that for some coaches they say, ‘Look I have a gut feeling … I don’t need this information.’”

FIFA is happy with that. The governing body’s technical staff — the side often eclipsed by the high-profile members of the ruling-council — will continue to innovate. 

But artificial intelligence isn’t taking over. For some time, at least.

“People think now it’s all driven by computers,” Holzmueller said.  “We don’t want that at FIFA.”