Hart steps down as Oscars host over his past anti-gay tweets
By JAKE COYLE
AP Film Writer
Friday, December 7
NEW YORK (AP) — Just two days after being named host of the Academy Awards, Kevin Hart stepped down following an outcry over past homophobic tweets by the comedian.
Capping a swift and dramatic fallout, Hart wrote on Twitter just after midnight Friday that he was withdrawing as Oscars host because he didn’t want to be a distraction. “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past,” wrote Hart.
Hart, who is in Australia for a comedy tour, also tweeted Friday morning: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Earlier Thursday evening, the comedian had refused to apologize for tweets that resurfaced after he was announced as Oscars host on Tuesday. In a video on Instagram, Hart said the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences gave him an ultimatum: apologize or “we’re going to have to move on and find another host.”
“I chose to pass on the apology,” Hart said. “The reason why I passed is because I’ve addressed this several times.”
The film academy didn’t respond to messages Thursday evening.
Hart has since deleted some of the anti-gay tweets, mostly dated from 2009-2011. But they had already been screen-captured and been shared online. In 2011, he wrote in a since-deleted tweet: “Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay.’”
In an earlier post Thursday, Hart wrote on Instagram that critics should “stop being negative” about his earlier anti-gay remarks.
“I’m almost 40 years old. If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve? I don’t know what to tell you,” said Hart, who added, in all-caps: “I love everybody.”
Hart’s attitudes about homosexuality were also a well-known part of his stand-up act. In the 2010 special “Seriously Funny,” he said “one of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay.”
“Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic, I have nothing against gay people, do what you want to do, but me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will,” Hart said.
GLAAD, the advocacy group for LGBTQ rights, said Thursday that it reached out to Oscars broadcaster ABC, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and Hart’s management to “discuss Kevin’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and record.”
Comedian and actor Billy Eichner said “a simple, authentic apology showing any bit of understanding or remorse would have been so simple.”
It’s not the first time an Oscars host has been derailed by anti-gay remarks. Ahead of the 2012 Academy Awards, producer Brett Ratner, who had been paired with host Eddie Murphy, resigned days after using a gay slur at a film screening. Murphy soon after exited, as well.
That year, a tried-and-true Oscars veteran — Billy Crystal — jumped in to save the show, hosting for his eighth time. This time, speculation has already been rampant that few in Hollywood want the gig, for which few win glowing reviews.
The film academy moved up this year’s ceremony to Feb. 24, giving producers little time to find a replacement.
At a Hollywood event Thursday night, comedian Kathy Griffin, whose career suffered last year when she posted a photo on social media that looked like a beheaded President Donald Trump, said Hart messed up, yet had empathy for the situation.
“He wrote that tweet eight years ago when gay marriage wasn’t even legal yet, so we all do things. God knows in my 23 specials I’ve said heinously inappropriate things,” she said.
Griffin hoped Hart’s departure would open the door for a woman comedian to host the show.
“I want more women to host the Oscars and in the entire history of the Oscars, they’ve only been hosted by three women, three times and so we haven’t leveled the playing field yet,” she said.
Terry Crews, who described Hart as a “brother,” said he respected Hart’s decision to walk away from the show.
“I’m thankful that he acknowledged things that maybe weren’t right, and he’ll come back from this,” Crews said. “We do have to admit our guilt and say, ‘Hey I messed up and let’s fix this thing.’ I think that he will do that, and he has always done that.”
Associated Press writer Marcela Isaza contributed to this report.
I used facial recognition technology on birds
December 7, 2018
Associate Professor of Computer Science, University of Richmond
Lewis Barnett is affiliated with the Richmond Audubon Society and the Virginia Society for Ornithology.
University of Richmond provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
As a birder, I had heard that if you paid careful attention to the head feathers on the downy woodpeckers that visited your bird feeders, you could begin to recognize individual birds. This intrigued me. I even went so far as to try sketching birds at my own feeders and had found this to be true, up to a point.
In the meantime, in my day job as a computer scientist, I knew that other researchers had used machine learning techniques to recognize individual faces in digital images with a high degree of accuracy.
These projects got me thinking about ways to combine my hobby with my day job. Would it be possible to apply those techniques to identify individual birds?
So, I built a tool to collect data: a type of bird feeder favored by woodpeckers and a motion-activated camera. I set up my monitoring station in my suburban Virginia yard and waited for the birds to show up.
Image classification is a hot topic in the tech world. Major companies like Facebook, Apple and Google are actively researching this problem to provide services like visual search, auto-tagging of friends in social media posts and the ability to use your face to unlock your cellphone. Law enforcement agencies are very interested as well, primarily to recognize faces in digital imagery.
When I started working with my students on this project, image classification research focused on a technique that looked at image features such as edges, corners and areas of similar color. These are often pieces that might be assembled into some recognizable object. Those approaches were about 70 percent accurate, using benchmark data sets with hundreds of categories and tens of thousands of training examples.
Recent research has shifted toward the use of artificial neural networks, which identify their own features that prove most useful for accurate classification. Neural networks are modeled very loosely on the patterns of communication among neurons in the human brain. Convolutional neural networks, the type that we are now using in our work with birds, are modified in ways that were modeled on the visual cortex. That makes them especially well-suited for image classification problems.
Some other researchers have already tried similar techniques on animals. I was inspired in part by computer scientist Andrea Danyluk of Williams College, who has used machine learning to identify individual spotted salamanders. This works because each salamander has a distinctive pattern of spots.
Progress on bird ID
While my students and I didn’t have nearly as many images to work with as most other researchers and companies, we had the advantage of some constraints that could boost our classifier’s accuracy.
All of our images were taken from the same perspective, had the same scale and fell into a limited number of categories. All told, only about 15 species ever visited the feeder in my area. Of those, only 10 visited often enough to provide a useful basis for training a classifier.
The limited number of images was a definite handicap, but the small number of categories worked in our favor. When it came to recognizing whether the bird in an image was a chickadee, a Carolina wren, a cardinal or something else, an early project based on a facial recognition algorithm achieved about 85 percent accuracy – good enough to keep us interested in the problem.
Identifying birds in images is an example of a “fine-grained classification” task, meaning that the algorithm tries to discriminate between objects that are only slightly different from each other. Many birds that show up at feeders are roughly the same shape, for example, so telling the difference between one species and another can be quite challenging, even for experienced human observers.
The challenge only ramps up when you try to identify individuals. For most species, it simply isn’t possible. The woodpeckers that I was interested in have strongly patterned plumage but are still largely similar from individual to individual.
So, one of our biggest challenges was the human task of labeling the data to train our classifier. I found that the head feathers of downy woodpeckers weren’t a reliable way to distinguish between individuals, because those feathers move around a lot. They’re used by the birds to express irritation or alarm. However, the patterns of spots on the folded wings are more consistent and seemed to work just fine to tell one from another. Those wing feathers were almost always visible in our images, while the head patterns could be obscured depending on the angle of the bird’s head.
In the end, we had 2,450 pictures of eight different woodpeckers. When it came to identifying individual woodpeckers, our experiments achieved 97 percent accuracy. However, that result needs further verification.
How can this help birds?
Ornithologists need accurate data on how bird populations change over time. Since many species are very specific in their habitat needs when it comes to breeding, wintering and migration, fine-grained data could be useful for thinking about the effects of a changing landscape. Data on individual species like downy woodpeckers could then be matched with other information, such as land use maps, weather patterns, human population growth and so forth, to better understand the abundance of a local species over time.
I believe that a semiautomated monitoring station is within reach at modest cost. My monitoring station cost around US$500. Recent studies suggest that it should be possible to train a classifier using a much broader group of images, then fine-tune it quickly and with reasonable computational demands to recognize individual birds.
Projects like Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s eBird have put a small army of citizen scientists on the ground for monitoring population dynamics, but the bulk of those data tends to be from locations where people are numerous, rather than from locations of specific interest to scientists.
An automated monitoring station approach could provide a force multiplier for wildlife biologists concerned with specific species or specific locations. This would broaden their ability to gather data with minimal human intervention.
What we can learn from reading Sylvia Plath’s copy of ‘The Great Gatsby’
December 10, 2018
Curator, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of South Carolina
Jeanne Britton does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of South Carolina provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
As a rare books curator, I get to interact with first editions of novels I love, illustrated versions of my favorite poets’ works, and lavish editions of historical engravings.
In 2015, I started using the University of South Carolina’s first edition of “Lyrical Ballads” in my survey of British literature courses. Written by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, this collection of poems is commonly thought to have launched British Romanticism.
I would bring the volume to class to discuss its visual appearance as a printed text. But each time I shared the volume with a new group of students, we found ourselves drawn to the comments written in the book’s margins by its early owner, John Peace.
Peace was, I learned, an acquaintance of Wordsworth. And some of his comments in the margins of one of the volume’s most well-known poems, “Tintern Abbey,” explore the poem’s themes of memory, place and return.
‘So thought I… and so have I found,’ John Peace writes, reacting to ‘Tintern Abbey.’
In this poem, Wordsworth describes his return to the Wye River valley after an absence of five years. He also recalls his memories of his first visit to the valley and looks forward to the memories this second visit will create.
“In this moment,” he writes, “there is life and food / For future years.”
When Peace responds to these lines, he describes a different kind of experience – visiting the poet in his home – in a similar way: “So thought I when my foot first step’t upon his threshold, and so have I found.”
It is a singular piece of literary history, and it’s one example of how the study of words written in the margins of historic texts – called “marginalia” – can illuminate the history of reading in new ways.
As prominent book historian Roger Chartier has noted, marginalia can reconstruct past reading experiences through the “sparse and multiple traces” ordinary readers left behind.
One particularly vivid example that is far from ordinary is Sylvia Plath’s copy of “The Great Gatsby.”
Reading ‘Gatsby’ with Sylvia Plath
Acquired by the University of South Carolina in 1994 from a former professor, the Matthew J. & Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald includes Fitzgerald’s personal ledger, a flask from his wife Zelda, and early drafts of his works.
It also includes an inexpensive 1949 edition of “The Great Gatsby.” Compared to other items in this collection, it might not seem like anything special.
But the book’s owner – and the words she wrote in its margins – are quite noteworthy.
The bookplate identifies Sylvia Plath as the owner of this copy, which she most likely read as an undergraduate at Smith College. Some marginal comments were probably notes she took during lectures about the novel. But others show the way Fitzgerald’s novel sparked her imagination and inspired her own work.
She wrote on almost every page, underlining passages in black and blue ink, drawing stars beside her favorites and occasionally writing notes – some quite arresting – in the margins.
Plath wrote “L’Ennui” – a French word that describes a feeling of listlessness and boredom – next to a description of the character Daisy’s world-weary view of life: “I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” “L’Ennui” would become the title of a poem Plath is thought to have written shortly after reading this novel.
Sylvia Plath wrote ‘L’Ennui’ – the title of a future poem of hers – in the margins of ‘The Great Gatsby.’ Source, Author provided
Other notes are, in the context of Plath’s painful life and tragic suicide, haunting.
She writes that Daisy shows a “desire for a secure future” – a longing that seems to have struck a chord for Plath.
On another page, she hints at masculine aggression when she comments, as Gatsby watches the Buchanans from outside their home, “knight waiting outside – dragon goes to bed with the princess.” This was a motif that would reappear in her own life: In her recently published letters, Plath details the physical and emotional abuse her husband, the poet Ted Hughes, inflicted upon her in the months before her death.
Some of Plath’s notes are poignant, given what would transpire over the course of her life. Source, Author provided
Sylvia Plath’s copy of “The Great Gatsby” speaks to the value of marginalia. As Makenzie Logue, a student of mine who is currently studying the volume, put it, preserving these notes means that you can “read The Great Gatsby with Sylvia Plath.”
Making marginalia accessible
In recent years, marginalia left by ordinary readers has become a subject of large-scale data collection efforts.
At the University of Virginia, English professor Andrew Stauffer leads a team that has made a book’s annotations, inscriptions and insertions discoverable as part of UVA’s online library catalog. Any user will be able to find such markings through a simple online search.
At the University of California, Los Angeles, librarians are developing ways to discover marginalia digitally – and quickly – across large digital collections.
Using the methods developed at the University of Virginia, my colleague Michael Weisenburg and I have organized searches for historical markings in library books at the University of South Carolina. Student workers and library staff have enhanced records for annotated volumes in the school’s online catalog.
While digital technology has made marginalia more accessible, digital reading has made the actual habit of writing in books much less common.
What would Sylvia Plath and John Peace have done if they had a Kindle? Would they have still left traces of their reactions to the texts – so valuable to scholars today – behind?
Andrew Shead: Reading with electronic devices isn’t conducive to marginalia, despite being equipped with note-making functionality using a stylus or pop-up keyboard. A paper book invites spontaneous interaction of readers with the text; though I am reluctant to mark the books I read, except to indicate ownership of the copy, using instead a separate notebook to record quotations and thoughts.
The real value of digitized collections that include marginalia is vastly improved access and facilitation of research through search capability and the ability to overlay and compare the marginalia of different owners.
Paper books have continuing value and will coexist with and be enhanced by digital technology.
LA Film Critics name ‘Roma’ best film of the year
By JAKE COYLE
AP Film Writer
Monday, December 10
NEW YORK (AP) — The Los Angeles Film Critics Association on Sunday named Alfonso Cuaron’s deeply personal drama “Roma” best film of the year, adding to the acclaimed film’s steadily mounting honors.
Cuaron’s black-and-white film, a Netflix release, has been cleaning up many of the top prizes of awards season. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and likewise topped the New York Film Critics Circle. “Roma” is widely expected to land Netflix its first best-picture nomination at the Academy Awards.
The Los Angeles critics , which announced their awards on Twitter, also awarded best cinematography to Cuaron. But it notably deviated from the “Roma” drumbeat in the directing category. Instead, Debra Granik (“Winter’s Bone”) was named best director for her off-the-grid father-daughter drama “Leave No Trace.”
Critics groups can influence the larger Oscars race, which has thus far struggled to elevate a likely female filmmaker contender, a sore point for some considering the wealth of options (including Chloe Zhao for “The Rider” and Marielle Heller for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) and the historic male dominance of the category. On Thursday, the Golden Globes named an all-male field of directing nominees for the fourth time in a row, a record that has drawn increasing criticism.
The LA critics named Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”) best actress and Ethan Hawke (“First Reformed”) best actor. Hawke was also the New York critics’ choice and the winner at last month’s Gotham Film Awards.
Best supporting actor went to Steven Yeun for Lee Chang-dong’s existential thriller “Burning,” which was also the group’s runner-up for best film. Taking best supporting actress was Regina King for Barry Jenkins’ James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
The critics also named Sandi Tan’s “Shirkers” best documentary, the upcoming comic-book adaptation “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” best animated film and Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty’s script to “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” best screenplay. Other winners included Nicholas Britell for his score to “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Hannah Beachler for the production design on “Black Panther” and Joshua Altman and Bing Liu for editing “Minding the Gap,” the documentary about friends in a small Rust Belt town in Illinois.
The critics will hand out their awards in a ceremony on Jan. 12. They will also honor Japanese filmmaker and animator Hayao Miyazaki — co-founder of Studio Ghibli and the maker of animated classics like “Howls Moving Castle” and “My Neighbor Totoro” — with their career achievement award.