Jared Bowen's Arts Ahead: New, Bold and Beautiful

By Jared Bowen   |   Thursday, February 23, 2012
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Feb. 23, 2012
Chris Loftus, Bill Nolte, Ryan Landry in Little Pricks. Photo by: Michael von Redlich

BOSTON — Premiere performances, bold comedy and daring exhibitions prove Boston's art scene is to be taken seriously.

Wild Swans
American Repertory Theater
Now through March 11th
The set is georgeous, and Jung Chang consulted a great deal on getting the details just right in this first ever production of her best-selling book. See Jared's full report for Greater Boston and participate in the Wild Swans community memoir project, created in collaboration with Harvard's metaLab and Zeega.

The Little Pricks
Presented by Ryan Landry and The Gold Dust Orphans
Machine in the Fenway
Now through March 11
Landry is at it again, this time interpreting Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes," mocking the one percent with characters conniving to get rich quick by means of a slavery scheme. With outrageous costumes and great wit, you can't help but let out a laugh.

Figuring Color: Kathy Butterly, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Roy McMakin, Sue Williams
Institute of Contemporary Art
Now through May 20th
A major exhibition exploring the use of color and form to convey ideas about the body. McMakin’s fleshy chairs mimic the human form, Butterly’s intricate ceramics are rich with bodily humor and desire, Gonzalez-Torres’s installations of candy and plastic beads abstractly evoke physical absence and presence, and Williams’s electrifying canvases convey the viscera of war and politics.

Shaker-Inspired Night Stand

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
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The Shaker-inspired Night Stand is one of Tommy Macdonald’s favorite projects. This particular piece really shows off Tommy’s style in using rough cut lumber and highlighting the figured maple that he features in the piece.

In this episode, Tommy provides detailed project instructions for drawer construction, highlighting techniques for mortise and tenon joinery, and leg tapering. He also speaks with North Bennet Street School president Miquel Gomez Inbanez, and receives an in-studio visit from Steve Brown, head of the School’s Cabinet and Furniture-Making department.

Thomas J. MacDonald - 0106 - Shaker-inspired Night Stand - North Bennet St. School

At MIT, The Jeopardy Machine Is Personal

By Andrea Smardon   |   Wednesday, February 16, 2011
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Feb. 16, 2011

Ken Jennings, a computer named Watson and Brad Rutter compete on Jeopardy on Monday. (AP)

BOSTON — Wednesday night is the much-anticipated final round of the quiz show Jeopardy, in which Watson, the first non-human contestant, competes against the two greatest champions in the show's history. 
The contest has generated a special kind of excitement at MIT. 
How do you pack a room full of MIT students in a classroom on Valentine’s Day evening?  Turn down the lights, pull down the screen, and broadcast an episode of a quiz show pitting human beings against a machine.

MIT students watch the computer Watson compete on Jeopardy on Monday. (Andrea Smardon/WGBH)

“You are about to witness what may prove to be an historic competition…an exhibition match pitting an IBM computer system against the two most celebrated and successful players in Jeopardy history,” said Jeopardy host Alex Trebek.  Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it?”
The human contestants are Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, but the real draw is Watson, an artificial intelligence program designed to answer questions posed in natural language  with all its complexities and double meanings. 
MIT senior Vibin Kundukulam is a former Jeopardy contestant himself, and had the opportunity to play Watson in preliminary rounds last year.  For him, this contest is personal. “Being human, I kind of want Brad and Ken to show the machine up; I also want them to get revenge on it for me,” Kundukulam said.
Kundukulam is still a little sore that he got beat by a machine, but he says he was also able to beat Watson in another match.  He says Watson has stepped up its game, but still falters in predictable places.
“There are certain things I sort of expected, like some of the types of clues are more difficult, where it had to really parse that natural language, where it had interpret puns and riddles, it had a lot of trouble with that as opposed to fill in the blank, finish this riddle, that was very easy for it.” Kundukulam said.
That happened when Watson chose “alternate meanings” for 800. Trebek read the clue, “Stylish elegance or student who all graduated in the same year.”
“What is chic?” suggested Watson.
Brad Rutter got it right: Class.
IBM’s David Gondek is a research scientist who was intimately involved in the creation of Watson. He came up from New York to be with the MIT audience, and he watches the screen like a nervous parent, putting his head in his hands numerous times throughout the program.  
 “One thing that drew me to MIT was that everyone seemed so excited about it.  People were cheering during the match.  It’s like you’re part of an event,” Gondek said.
MIT is also one of IBM’s academic partners enlisted to create and improve Watson.  The university has been a pioneer in natural language question answering systems.
 “We have a number of academic partners we’ve worked with, and they’ve put stuff into the system that’s improved performance – like big jumps.  It’s great to get people excited, getting people thinking about this.  Maybe they’ll think of the next algorithm to go in Watson,” Gondek said.
Watson is also generating talk on campus about other applications. Rutu Manchiganti is a graduate student in System Design and Management.
 “We were just talking about how useful Watson’s technology would be in other contexts, in business contexts for example.  We were talking about health care, like how it could help diagnose people.  You could put in exactly what you’re feeling, it would have all this research and background in its brain.  We thought that was -- the potential there is enormous.”
But even with all the potential, Manchiganti has to side with her own.
 “I think it’s a huge leap for a machine to be as intelligent or to seem as intelligent as Watson is but I’m still rooting for the humans,” Manchiganti said.
The MIT community will be watching with special interest to see if a machine can beat humans at their own game in Jeopardy’s final round this evening.

The Los Angeles Project

Tuesday, January 25, 2011
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Judy Lee: Product Designer

Monday, January 24, 2011
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Design Squad Nation

Tuesday, January 18, 2011
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About the Authors
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 


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