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July 01 2013


Tribune Co. to buy 19 TV stations in 2.7bn deal

Los Angeles Times :: Tribune Co. has agreed to purchase 19 television stations owned by Local TV Holdings in a $2.73-billion deal that is expected to make Tribune the largest television station group in the country.

Read Meg James, touch.latimes.com


Merger is complete: Penguin Random House will control 25% of the U.S. trade book market

New York Times :: The new company, called Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States, giving it unmatched leverage against Amazon.com, a growing force in the industry.

Read Julie Bosman, www.nytimes.com


Beyond Helvetica: The Real Story Behind Fonts in iOS 7

This article by Jürgen Siebert was first posted on June 17, 2013 to the German Fontblog.de. The English translation for Typographica.org is by Maurice Meilleur.

There was no shortage of long-distance diagnoses of the typography in Apple’s recently presented mobile interface, iOS 7. The live-streaming keynote address from the WWDC developer’s conference last Monday hadn’t even started before the first typophiles started sharing their concerns on Twitter. The day before the announcement, our friend Stephen Coles was already deeply worried about the light weight of Helvetica on the display banners hanging at the WWDC venue in San Francisco:

“Skinny font as seen on the iOS 7 banner at WWDC.” Please, no. http://t.co/8ajr15GOgL

— Typographica.org (@typographica) June 10, 2013

The next morning former New York Times art director Khoi Vinh compared the look of the new iOS to a cosmetics department:

Why iOS 7 looks like a makeup counter at Macy's: My thoughts on iOS 7's use of Helvetica Neue Ultra Light. http://t.co/7kRdUCTTNz

— Khoi Vinh (@khoi) June 11, 2013

And two days later, Thomas Phinney (formerly in the type team at Adobe) also took iOS 7’s typography to task:

1/2 iOS 7 preview: horrible type. Low foreground/background contrast & lighter weight Helvetica trending illegible.

— Thomas Phinney (@ThomasPhinney) June 13, 2013

2/2 Existing iOS Helvetica UI font was already anti-legibility. iOS 7 choices could make me run for the hills.

— Thomas Phinney (@ThomasPhinney) June 13, 2013

I should remind the early birds who were already chirping during the keynote:

  • that it will take at least another four months for the final version of iOS 7 to reach the market
  • that you can’t judge the effectiveness of a typeface in a dynamic OS from videos or screenshots
  • that no one commenting on the keynote said a word about iOS’s underlying font technology, which has obviously changed.

People did calm down over the subsequent days of the week-long conference. This was largely because of the presentations from Apple’s engineers devoted to ways the OS would handle fonts, in which they revealed the first details of the new technology.

Screenshot of the Music app in iOS 7 playing “Words” from the album “Sinking Ships” by The Bee GeesNo, text and words aren’t sinking ships in iOS 7.
In fact, it’s just the opposite.

In his session, Ian Baird, the person in Cupertino responsible for how Apple’s mobile products handle text, showed off what he called the “coolest feature in iOS 7”: Text Kit. Behind this name is a new API (application programming interface) for developers of apps in which text plays a critical role. Text Kit is built over Core Text, a sophisticated Unicode layout engine with a lot of power, the potential of which unfortunately hasn’t been very easy to tap in the past. But now, no one needs to struggle with it, because Text Kit is there to act as an interpreter.

Text Kit is a fast, modern layout- and text-rendering engine, easy to maintain through settings integrated into the User Interface Kit. Those settings give developers full control over all Core Text functions, so they can choose very precisely how text will behave in all user interface elements. To make that possible, Apple has revised UITextView, UITextLabel, and UILabel. The good news: this means the seamless integration of animation and text (the same principle behind UICollectionView and UITableView) for the first time ever in the history of iOS. The bad news: this means existing text-heavy apps will have to be redeveloped in order to support all these nifty new features.


Apple has rebuilt the text layout architecture in iOS 7, allowing developers to build control over the behavior of text and fonts into the user interfaces of their apps, with a level of dynamic freedom unheard-of before.

So what do all these new options mean, practically speaking? Developers can now drop long-form texts into reader-friendly, attractive layouts, with multiple columns and with image layers that aren’t chained to the grid. There are exciting new possibilities hiding behind the labels “Interactive Text Color”, “Text Folding”, and “Custom Truncation”. So, for example, it will soon be possible while composing in iOS to have the color of text change if the app recognizes a specific dynamic element (a hashtag, a Twitter account name, or the like). Or, we can trim longer texts into previews without being limited to options like before/after/middle; developers can define those options however they want.


With just a few lines of code, developers can display the time using presentable typography, with proportionally-spaced figures and the correct hh:mm divider.

Typographic aesthetes will be happy to learn that support for kerning and ligatures (Apple calls these macros “font descriptors”) will be turned on throughout iOS 7, effortlessly accessible even over very advanced visual effects like the deceptively real-looking handmade paper texture. But don’t worry: the magical letterpress look is, for now, the only remaining skeumorphism that has survived the update, and that only in the Notes app. Think of it as an example of something that can be turned off in the future, something developers will have the right to use, or not, as they wish.

But the hottest typographic number in iOS 7 is Dynamic Type. As far as I know, Apple’s mobile products will be the first electronic devices that will by default consider a quality of type that hasn’t been given so much attention since the age of letterpress. That’s right: we’re talking about an operating system, not an application or a layout job. It’s true, optical sizes were tried in photosetting and desktop publishing—but they weren’t really automatic, and some of the attempts turned out to be blind alleys (like Adobe Multiple Masters). And yes, there are any number of displays in industry products that use different ‘grades’ of text for smaller and larger settings. But optical sizing in iOS builds on these earlier attempts and offers astonishing possibilities.


The Dynamic Type waterfall in iOS 7 (middle); the waterfall on the left uses the headline weight only, and the one on the right, only the text weight. The letterspacing isn’t perfect, but that isn’t a problem, since iOS allows modifications, either by Apple or developers.

Thanks to Dynamic Type, users can now use sliders (with seven stops, found under Settings > General > Text Size) to adjust the text size in every app according to their own taste. And in case the largest size isn’t large enough, those with impaired vision can find under Settings > General > Accessibility a way to turn Dynamic Type up to its maximum size, options to “improve legibility” (which sets the text over a light gradient without changing its size), and optimize the background contrast.

Conclusion: When iOS is ready to be released in a few months, the operating system itself may not offer the best typography (using Neue Helvetica). But the OS’s underlying text layout and rendering technologies offer Apple and developers everything they need to conjure up dynamic and readable text on the Retina Display in ways they’ve never been able to before.


Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting /1

Il porto di Lindau sul lago di Costanza

Qui i confini cambiano spesso, nonostante tutti parlino la stessa lingua. Se da questo fazzoletto di terra attaccato alla riva da due ponti che gli fanno da lacciuoli si prende un ferry, pochi minuti e si arriva in Austria. La maggior parte delle montagne che si vedono guardando verso sud dal porto, invece, sono in Svizzera. Eppure Lindau e’ tornata ad essere bavarese solo nel 1955, dopo essere stata francese per qualche tempo (poco) e dopo che tra cadute del Sacro Romano Impero e riassetti della Confederazione Elvetica le hanno fatto cambiare spesso bandiera. Qui, dagli anni Cinquanta si incontrano una volta l’anno i premi Nobel della scienza e per la 63a edizione di questi incontri di Lindau, il pallino della discussione e’ toccato alla chimica.

I monti svizzeri sulla sponda opposta del lago visti dal faro (l’unico di tutta la Bavaria)

Per i giovani ricercatori che ancora stanno cercando di affermarsi, i Lindau Meetings sono un’occasione piu’ unica che rara per poter assistere alle lezioni dei vincitori del Nobel e, soprattutto, di poter rivolgere loro alcune domande nelle sessioni pomeridiane di discussione riservate proprio a questo scopo. I fortunati 625 prescelti di quest’anno hanno a loro disposizione 35 premi Nobel. Un posto come questo, da cartolina, con il treno che arriva fin sull’isola e i curati giardini che si affacciano sulle rive, sembra quasi irreale, un bolla di aria fresca nel caos della contemporaneita’. Non ho visto nemmeno un locale attrezzato per la finale di Confederation Cup di ieri sera (ma i tedeschi non hanno partecipato) e per cinque giorni le viuzze dell’isola saranno invase dai giovani con le loro borse rosse (omaggio dell’organzzazione) che tra un apfelstrudel e una birra in un imbiss parlano di meccanica quantistica, di G-protein, catalisi, recettori, ricerca di nuovi medicinali piu’ efficaci.

Tramanto sulla riva ovest dell’isola di Lindau

Noi giornalisti sembriamo l’elemento fuori contesto. Impressione confermata anche dalla precisa funzionalita’ del press office. Riguardo le email che mi ha mandato nei mesi scorsi. L’hotel e’ stato prenotato tre mesi fa e oltre il 30 aprile non era piu’ possibile modificarlo. I nomi dei Nobel che volevo intervistare ho dovuto comunicarli quattro settimane fa, salvo poi scoprire che solo due di queste sono state calendarizzate (“Alcuni Nobel selezionano attentamente i propri contatti con la stampa”) e che per cercare di organizzare qualcosa all’ultimo momento e’ praticamente impossibile. Chiedo cosa succede se incontro la bar Serge Haroche o Steven Chu: posso intervistarli li’ per li’? “Assolutamente no, proprio no. Le cose qui a Lindau non vanno in questo modo”. Progressivamente hai capisci che l’ufficio stampa non e’ un tuo alleato, ma tiene piu’ in considerazione il “non disturbare il professor tal dei tali” e il suo rapporto, eventualmente, con i giovani ricercatori.


Pubblico alla prima giornata di lectures (Photo by Nobel Laureate Meeting)

Che si tratti di un cosa per loro e non per gli altri, da cui ti permettono gentilmente di guardare dal buco della serratura e’ evidente. Durante la settimana ci sono molte sessioni chiuse, a cui non e’ consentito l’accesso alla stampa e al pubblico generale. Una serie di eventi sono esclusivi e organizzati da questo o quel governo che finanzia l’iniziativa. Sembra di non essere nel XXI secolo, ma nel XIX, quando Lindau era importante per il traffico navale sul lago e grazie al treno metteva in comunicazione Monaco e la Bavaria con le valli piu’ meridionali tra cantoni svizzeri e le montagne italiane. Il punto e’ che nel 2013, con lo streaming integrale delle lecture e un’attivita’ sui social network piuttosto vivace, o mi fai incontrare di persona i Nobel, oppure il mio viaggio di giornalista diventa piuttosto inutile. Oltre al fatto che a dispetto dell’efficienza teutonica, il wifi non funziona piu’ da stamattina…


Summer's Here! What are the festivals in Japan to visit?

The scattered isles of the Japanese archipelago play host to all manner of festivals, from annual head-banging rock music parties to beard-stroking art installations.

We decided to make an non-definitive list of festivals. Note before you start scrolling down, we've stayed clear of traditional arts and open-call contests for the most part, as well as art fairs, expos and so on. This is a really select list — in particular, the choice of music fests is very limited — but we hope it will still prove useful in showing the sheer variety of events happening around the country.

So here they are, in order of start dates.

Art Festivals

Asahi Art Festival (Tokyo) Asahi has long been a patron of the arts, including the Asahi Art Square in Asakusa. This annual festival gathers arts groups from all over Japan for a series of events. June 13th to October 14th, 2013

Dojima River Biennale (Osaka) Artistically returning some status to Dojima River, once a major center in Osaka. July 20th to August 18th, 2013

Setouchi Triennale (Setouchi Inland Sea) Numerous art installations and events dotted around the islands between Honshu and Shikoku. July 20th to September 1st, and October 5th to November 4th, 2013

setouchi art festival japan

Aichi Triennale (Nagoya) A mixed program of art, performances, opera and films argues that there's more to the Aichi area than just automobile manufacturing. August 10th to October 27th, 2013

Nakanojo Biennale (Gunma) Exhibitions, installations, performances and workshops in over thirty locations in a hot spring resort. September 13th to October 14th, 2013

Towada Oirase Art Festival (Aomori) This brand new festival will feature the likes of Lieko Shiga, Akira Takayama, Aiko Miyanaga and contact Gonzo. September 21st to November 24th, 2013

Kobe Biennale (Kobe) Osaka's classy neighbor now has its own seaside arts festival. October 1st to December 1st, 2013

Musashino Art University Art Festival (Tokyo) Festival run by students from one of Japan's leading art colleges. October 26th to 28th, 2013

Tama Art University Art Festival (Tokyo) Another event by an art college that takes place on the campus in west Tokyo. November 2nd to 4th, 2013

Ube Biennale International Open Sculpture Competition (Yamaguchi) This festival right in the south of Honshu features contemporary sculptures out in the open. Happening next: autumn 2013

Japan Media Arts Festival (Japan) This exhibition showcases the best in media arts entered for consideration from around the globe, divided by genre. Happening next: February 2014

Roppongi Art Night (Tokyo) An all-nighter in Roppongi isn't usually something to bring the kids along to — but this annual March art carnival is rather different and certainly created with families in mind. Happening next: TBA

Yokohama Triennale (Yokohama) Tokyo's neighbor plays host every three years to a bonanza of art from around the world. August 1st to November 3rd, 2014

Echigo-Tsumari Art Field (Niigata) Art installations among the rice paddies in this very rural festival. Happening next: 2015


Film Festivals

Tokyo International Film Festival (Tokyo) Love it or hate it, this is indisputably Japan's biggest movie fest. October 17th to 25th

Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (Yamagata) The country's top event for serious documentary fans. October 10th to 17th, 2013

Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival (Hokkaido) This ambitious film festival takes places in the snow of northern Japan. Happening next: February 21st to 25th, 2014

Tokyo FILMeX (Tokyo) Japan's best international independent film festival makes a nice antidote to the almost concurrent TIFF. Happening next: TBA

Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Visions (Tokyo) Video art and film installations dominate this urban festival in Ebisu that usually takes place in February. Happpening next: TBA

Okinawa International Movie Festival (Okinawa) A sun-soaked, optimistic blend of movies every March. The emphasis is on comedy, not surprisingly since it is run by Yoshimoto Kogyo. Happening next: TBA

Rock Music

Fuji Rock (Niigata) This fest is a real mixed bag but always features many foreign headliners. July 26th to 28th, 2013

Summer Sonic (Chiba) The biggest music fest of its kind within day-trip distance from Tokyo. August 10th to 11th, 2013

Metamorphose (usually in Shizuoka) This music festival happens every two years and has in the past featured the likes of The Flaming Lips, Mogwai and Tavito Nanao. Happening next: TBA


Classic Music

Saito Kinen Festival (Nagano) Founded by Seiji Ozawa in 1992, this is a summer treat for classical music fans in the castle town of Matsumoto. August 12th to September 7th, 2013

La Folle Journée au Japon (Tokyo) The annual classical music extravanganza is a spin-off from the festival held in Nantes. Some 300 concerts and events take place at the Tokyo International Forum and Marunouchi area. Happening next: May 2014

Jazz Festivals

Tokyo Jazz Festival (Tokyo) Japan's biggest jazz fest always features lots of international veterans. September 6th to 8th, 2013

Other Music

Earth Celebration (Sado Island, Niigata) Taiko drum ensembles, music and performing arts in the incredible setting of Sado Island. August 23rd to 25th, 2013 (main concerts)

Asagiri Jam (Shizuoka) Pitch your tent up at Mt. Fuji for this ecclectic music fest. October 6th to 7th, 2013


Performing Arts

Kyoto Experiment (Kyoto) Kyoto might well be the center of Japanese traditional arts, but it also has this relatively new annual international performing arts festival too. September 28th to October 27th, 2013

Festival/Tokyo (Tokyo) Japan's leading performing arts event, an annual festival mainly in the Ikebukuro area showcasing domestic and international theatre and dance. November 9th to December 8th, 2013

Dance Triennale (Tokyo) Japan's leading dance event brings together leaders from the dance scenes in countries from all over the world, though it focuses mostly on small-scale performances. Happening next: 2015

All right, if anyone's fuming now because we didn't include their favorite Kyushu folktronica fest, we did warn you that this is a very finite list! There are just so many other events and festivals out there. Which do you recommend?


Fans braced for Google Reader’s demise flock to new services

[BBC] - Millions of users of Google's Reader service are preparing for its closure, with many still angered at the search giant's decision. Google announced in March that it would shut down the RSS reader, blaming a decline in use. The company admitted that Reader had a "loyal following", and gave instructions for exporting feeds. Other web companies are now clamouring to gain "Google Reader orphans" when the service finally closes on Monday.

China state media blames Syria rebels for Xinjiang violence

[Reuters] - Chinese state media on Monday blamed Syrian opposition forces in unusually specific finger pointing for training Muslim extremists responsible for the deadliest unrest in four years in China's far-western region of Xinjiang. China has traditionally blamed violence in Xinjiang, home to Muslim Uighurs, on Islamic separatists who want to establish an independent state of "East Turkestan". This appears to mark the first time Beijing has blamed a group in Syria and fits a common narrative of the government portraying Xinjiang's violence as coming from abroad, such as Pakistan, and not due to homegrown anger.

Partner and target: NSA snoops on 500 million German data connections

[Der Spiegel] - America's National Security Agency (NSA) is apparently spying on Germany more than previously believed. Secret documents from the US intelligence service, which have been viewed by SPIEGEL journalists, reveal that the NSA systematically monitors and stores a large share of the country's telephone and Internet connection data. Internal NSA statistics indicate that the agency stores data from around half a billion communications connections in Germany each month. This data includes telephone calls, emails, mobile-phone text messages and chat transcripts. The metadata -- or information about which call or data connections were made and when -- is then stored at the NSA's headquarters in Fort Meade, near Washington, DC.

Occupy Wall Street: Evolution of digital communication activity

Cornell University Library :: Using a high-volume sample from the microblogging site Twitter, we investigate changes in Occupy participant engagement, interests, and social connectivity over a fifteen month period starting three months prior to the movement's first protest action.

Read Michael D. Conover, Emilio Ferrara, Filippo Menczer, Alessandro Flammini, arxiv.org


Wikileaks founder says Snowden info will keep getting published

[WHTC] - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Sunday that Edward Snowden made sure that the information he took about U.S. surveillance programs will continue to be published regardless of what happens to the former U.S. spy agency contractor. Assange criticized the United States for revoking Snowden's passport and said it would not stop the classified information taken by the 30-year-old former contractor from getting out. "Look, there is no stopping the publishing process at this stage," Assange said in an interview with ABC's "This Week" television show. "Great care has been taken to make sure that Mr. Snowden can't be pressured by any state to stop the publication process."

FCC approves Google’s ‘white space’ database operation

[CNET] - The Federal Communications Commission has approved Google's plan to operate a database that would allow unlicensed TV broadcast spectrum to be used for wireless broadband and shared among many users. Google, which was granted commission approval Friday, is the latest company to complete the FCC's 45-day testing phase. Spectrum Bridge and Telcordia completed their trials, and there are another 10 companies, including Microsoft, which are working on similar databases. The new database will keep track of the TV broadcast frequencies in use so that wireless broadband devices can take advantage of the unlicensed space on the spectrum, also called "white space."
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