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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    A video making the Tumblr rounds shows Sam Pepper, the popular vlogger facing sexual-abuse allegations, apologizing and tearing up. It’s fake.

    Understandably, fans still frustrated with the YouTuber’s actions in the past week.

    Pepper came under fire last week for a prank video where he pinched women on their behinds without their consent, followed by an outpouring of allegations of sexual misconduct by Pepper in his interactions with female fans. Pepper released two subsequent videos, claiming that the entire series was a social experiment aimed at bringing awareness to domestic abuse, specifically female-on-male abuse. Much of the YouTube community and fans cried foul, and addressed the issues with their own videos.

    Now a new video shows Pepper crying and telling the camera that it’s “been a really hard day for me and I can’t go on.” However, this video is edited from a June 11 video from his secondary vlogging channel called "I Suck at Vlogging.” 1wannbeyourdog, the original poster, went back to tag it “sorry if I mislead you” after the video began to go viral. 

    Pepper is not the only YouTuber to come under fire recently. Jason Viohni, 20, better known as VeeOneEye, was accused of sleeping with a 15-year-old fan in the U.K., where the age of consent is 16. Viohni is a pit reporter for Warped Tour and commands almost half a million subscribers. He filmed a video addressing the accusations and saying he’s not denying the charges. He blames the actions on his Mormon upbringing and alcohol dependence.

    Viohni has stopped posting on Twitter since he tweeted out this video. Pepper has stopped addressing the incident on his social media, but also hasn’t updated his twitter since Sept. 26. Pepper was dropped by Collective Digital Studio, the MCN that represented him.

    Screenshot via 16bitSam/YouTube

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    In a blog post on Tuesday, social news site Reddit announced that it has secured a $50 million round of venture capital funding.

    The list of funders reads like a who's who of Silicon Valley moneymen. There's Sam Atlman, the president of legendary startup incubator Y Combinator (where Reddit first got it start), angel investor/San Francisco political puppet-master Ron Conway, and libertarian sea-steading college-hater Peter Theil.

    And then there's this guy:

    Snoop Doog would like to see your monetization strategy

    Photo by Bob Bekian/Wikimedia Commons

    Yep, Snoop Dogg is now a part-owner of Reddit.

    Burried among the list of Reddit investors are two stand-out names: Academy Award-winning actor Jared Leto and Calvin Broadus Jr., better known as Snoop Dogg, Snoop Lion, and Snoopzilla. (OK, probably not Snoopzilla.)

    Snoop's interest in Reddit isn't anything new. The rapper has been an active participant on the site for years, using the handle Here_Comes_The_King and posting comments on a near daily basis. Not only has he done numerous "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) question-and-answer sessions with redditors, but he's also a moderator of the site's r/trees community of marijuana enthusiasts. Earlier this year, he even dropped in on Will Ferrell's AMA and jokingly asked the actor to play cowbell on his next record.

    Nor is Leto's involvement completed unexpected. Leto has dipped his toe into the tech waters a few times before. In June, it was announced that that he was providing funding for the human resources platform Zenefits. He also helped lunch a pair of tech startups: digitial media marketing company The Hive and concert streaming service VyRT

    The massive funding haul wasn't the only big news that to come out of Reddit today. In a comment on the company blog post, Reddit CEO Yishan Wong said that the company is looking to issue its own cryptocurrency:

    This is good news for Dogecoin

    Details about the currency are currently scarce, and representatives from Reddit did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But issuing virtual currency-based shares to community members appears to be something Reddit is serious about. Earlier this month, the company posted about a job opening for a cryptocurrency engineer.

    One can only hope that, if Snoop-infused Reddit does issue a cryptocurrency, it'll be called Snoop Doggecoin.

    Photo by Jørund Føreland Pedersen/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)


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    Almost all rap battles are a duel of wits and machismo. Participants put down their opponents with the most clever and crowd-pleasing insults they can come up with on the fly. As a result, several battles end in fisticuffs, brawls, and near riots.

    That’s why it’s refreshing to see the rap duo of Shuffle-T and Marlo take a different approach to their battle with fellow British rappers Big J and Lefty. Battling during a Don’t Flop Entertainment event, both teams decided that instead of attacking their opponents they would prop them up with compliments and heavy-handed flattery instead.

    The whole thing is an entertaining and laugh-inducing take on the classic battle rap format, made even more bizarre with fans in the crowd growling out “Get him!” and “Body bag!” and “Let’s go!” after every line.

    In the end, Shuffle-T and Marlo won the battle (and surely their opponents’ hearts) with hilarious quotables like: 

    Marlo: “Big J, you’ve got people telling you your type’s dead, just a single syllable two-bit rhyme head. Fuck them! Only you do your style best! It’s amusing, plus the execution’s priceless.”

    Shuffle-T: “So does he get our seal of approval, son?”

    Marlo: “Yes, ’cause you stick to your guns like you glued your biceps.”


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    Every sport has them. Away from the superstars, the big-swinging-dick Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks and World Series champion hitters, you have the characters—athletes who may not have the metronomic arms of Greinke or Rodgers or the feet of Peterson, but by sheer force of charisma or perseverance still transcend the scene. In competitive eating there is but one. Meet Hungry Todd Rungy.

    Sweatband aside, on initial inspection there’s nothing particularly exceptional about Rungy. His beard is par for the course these days around his home in Austin, Texas. He’s even the first to admit that he’s got a long way to go to beat Joey Chestnut, the world’s No. 1 competitive eater, in a hot-dog-eating contest. 

    But a closer look reveals a passion for and a desire to succeed in a sport that encapsulates his two loves; food and the United States of America. “I’m pretty much your average American that loves his country and loves to eat food,” says Rungy. “When I put on my headband, it’s like Superman putting on his tights. I just need to sing my theme song or 'The Star Spangled Banner,' and it gets me in the eating mindset. You know I’m ready for action!

    “Eating and food and America go hand in hand. Think about it … Our first holiday as a startup country was a giant feast with a bunch of Indians, and we still celebrate it today! If I say 'Fourth of July,' what are the first two things that come to your mind? Fireworks and cookouts!”

    After a few years doing amateur competitions in and around Texas—“mostly just low-key stuff like tacos and frozen bananas”—a chance meeting with University of Texas film student Joshua Riehl set Rungy’s sights on professional eating. “He had been looking for a subject for his thesis film, so I agreed to let him film a couple of competitions. They filmed some big eating victories, like the Tootie's apple pie contest and also some low moments, like a hot dog contest that I didn’t win. When I finally decided, 'OK this is something I should get serious about,' they were around and wanted to keep filming.”

    The result is a recently debuted 40-part webseries, which follows Rungy from the aforementioned lowest point of his eating career—which ended with him in an ignominious headlock—toward his goal of competing alongside Chestnut at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island.

    You can tell that the loss at the hot dog competition is fuel for Rungy; it clearly still stings. “Have you ever been put in a headlock? I had been working hard for a shot at a qualifier to get my way to Coney Island, and I blew it. That hot dog contest was like my own personal Bay of Pigs Invasion, except this was the parts of the pigs no one wants to talk about. It put me in a real funk for a couple of months.” 

    But Riehl and his crew have offered a path to redemption, reminding him that it was just one loss, even if it was a colossal one. “And you know what? They were right,” says Rungy. “I do have a natural talent for eating, and, after some reflection and being able to see the video from the contest, I realized I was a real jackass and that maybe I lost because of that and not my eating abilities.”

    Viewers should probably not expect dramatic developments to Rungy’s character over the course of the series—“this is Texas, so we’re still unresolved on the question of evolution”—but his approach and attitude toward eating gets a serious revamp: “Early in the season, you see me learn that maybe natural talent alone isn’t enough to win the Yellow Mustard Belt, and so you’ll see me get serious about competitive eating." He continues:

    “[To do that, you’re] gonna want to get on a training regiment, strengthen your jaw muscles, practice stretching your stomach by eating bags of cooked rice and then drinking a gallon of water. Finally, you need a game plan. You can’t just come off of the street and eat 64 Chick-fil-A nuggets without a game plan. You have to stretch your stomach first or else you’re going to end up vomiting blood. Which I learned the hard way.

    “The most important thing is to commit yourself to it. Do you think Joey Chestnut or Kobayashi got to the top by just doing this on the weekends? Heck no! They’re in it! It’s a lifestyle.”

    But it’s a lifestyle that is starting to attract publicity for the wrong reasons. How does Rungy deal with the complaints that competitive eating is an affront to decency in a country that is battling obesity and an international reputation for waste? Like a basket of tongue buns, he tackles the critics head-on. Frankly, he says, eating competitions are what’s good about America, and the critics aren’t.

    “Are they complaining about all of the food that Whole Foods throws out from their salad bar at the end of the night? No! They’re just angry that I’m actually out there doing something I love for the country I love and not just sitting around trolling people on the Internet," Rungy says.

    “If I had my way, everyone would have a stomach full of delicious food. That’s part of my slogan, 'Keep Eating for America!' … We’ve got so much food that no one in America should go hungry, they should keep eating!”

    But therein lies a thorny question. If Hungry Todd Rungy is eating for America, then who does Chestnut, the undisputed champ of this American pastime and potential future foe, eat for? 

    “I’m not going to sit here and tell you he’s not a patriot, but when‘s the last time you heard him giving this great country of ours a shout-out? Plus, the guy’s from California, which, if you ask me, is pretty much the least American of all the states.

    “But I did met Joey Chestnut once and after he gave me some pretty good eating tips [and] he gave a 'Keep eating for America' on camera with me, so even if he’s not actively pimping the USA, I’m pretty sure that deep down he’s got a little bit of William Taft in his heart.”

    Photo courtesy of Hungry Todd Rungy


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    May the best drone win.

    Tyler Perry might be a polarizing figure on the Internet, but he managed to show off his geekier side and charm The Tonight Show audience Tuesday night. He has a history of displaying his love and obsession with remote controlled toys, so Jimmy Fallon presented him with a new toy to play with.

    Not those drones, but rather a couple of jumping drones that you control with an iPad.

    Squaring off in a race around the studio, there’s plenty of failure, crashes, and even some successes. It might be more a chance to show off than an actual race, but damn these look fun.

    Photo via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/YouTube


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    I love me some Jeopardy!. I watch it all the time and shout out all the answers even if I’m in public. I do the online tests every year. And I even have a photo of a young, buff, shirtless Alex Trebek as my desktop background. But you know what I don’t love? I’ll take “casual misogyny” for 300, Alex.

    Earlier this week, viewers on Twitter took the game show to task when it introduced the category “What Women Want,” including such clues as“Some help around the house; would it kill you to get out the Bissel Bagless canister one of these every once in a while?" The answer: “What is a vacuum cleaner?” … because ladies be nagging their men to clean all the time and stuff.

    Granted, this isn’t the first time Jeopardy! has been accused of sexism: Earlier this year, Trebek caught flak for suggesting that women are less likely to win big on Jeopardy!“because they figure, ‘Oh, this is the household money, this is the grocery money, the rent money’” when wagering on the Daily Double. as Death + Taxes points out, it’s fairly common for Trebek to express faint bemusement whenever lady contestants get tough questions right, as if they were cats getting up on their hind legs. Look, how cute, they think they’re people.

    But this particular category crossed the line for many viewers, who took to Twitter to express their displeasure:

    Neither Jeopardy! nor Trebek (nor Trebek’s mustache) has issued an apology. Now if you’ll excuse me, this lady is so frustrated that she’s gonna rev up her Bissell and angrily clean her house for a few hours.

    H/T Death + Taxes | Screengrab via Play Jeopardy/YouTube


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    These pot enthusiasts may need to get a little more up-to-date on their current events.

    With the marijuana industry starting to become involved in the political process, Jimmy Kimmel’s curious as to how knowledgable its clientele is when it comes to what’s happening in the news. He went straight to the source and sent one of his correspondents down to a marijuana dispensary to ask them the hard questions.

    Everyone who agreed to be on the segment is about as clueless about current events as you’d probably expect, but ask them about anything stereotypically associated with potheads like Taco Bell and Pineapple Express, and they’re on point. Even if you don't smoke marijuana, you'd probably need to Google some of these answers on both sides of the coin.

    But just because they love pot doesn’t mean anything. The president smoked before, and he turned out OK.

    Photo via Jimmy Kimmel Live/YouTube


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    Back in the 1960s, Gerry Anderson created some of the U.K.’s most iconic children’s sci-fi television—all using puppets. Stingray, Captain Scarlet, and Thunderbirds are all remembered fondly, but in recent years this filmmaking technique has only been used for the parody movie Team America: World Police.

    Now, one Kickstarter campaign aims to change all that. Headed up by Gerry Anderson’s son Jamie, this campaign will fund a pilot episode for Firestorm, a TV series that Anderson originally sold to a Japanese production company to be developed into an anime series.

    This remake will use Anderson’s traditional puppetry style and real special effects, updated for the 21st century using a technique dubbed "ultramarionation." You can watch a message from Jamie Anderson here.

    The campaign is already more than halfway to its £49,280 ($79,768) goal with 32 days to go, so there’s clearly a real desire for this pilot to be filmed. This is partly thanks to the nostalgia factor for classic shows like Thunderbirds, but it also speaks to the general affection for practical special effects. Although movies like Gravity are now possible thanks to ultra-realistic CGI, many sci-fi fans tend to favor practical effects and Jim Henson-style puppets in more fantastical or family-oriented films—hence why so many people were excited to see puppets on the set of the new Star Wars movie.

    Practical effects are expensive, so the Kickstarter’s £49,280 goal only pays for an eight-minute pilot. If it reaches its first stretch goal, the pilot will be expanded to 22 minutes, a more traditional length for a televised episode.

    Photo via Kickstarter


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    If you thought Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” was perfect except for a missing banjo, look no further than Postmodern Jukebox’s twangy take on the booty-popping hit.

    This time around, Postmodern Jukebox goes bluegrass with the hit record and gives “Anaconda” an Appalachian makeover. That includes a few key lyric changes to fit the bluegrass feel, for example, “he growing crops like his name is Romaine” instead of the more NSFW original lyrics about salad. While our favorite tambourine guy may be absent for this video, there is an adorable puppy in the mix.


    For lucky fans in Los Angeles, Postmodern Jukebox is doing a weekly residency at Hyde Sunset, where hopefully this and many of their other amazing covers will make an appearance. Otherwise you'll have to catch them on tour this fall.

    Screengrab via Postmodern Jukebox/YouTube


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    Remember Ted Williams, the Cleveland homeless man with the golden voice? Well, this guy rapping on a Chicago subway platform may be just as worthy of 15 minutes of fame.

     

     

     

    The rapper’s name is Solow Redline, and he’s been performing at the Jackson Red Line station in Chicago for years.

    Solow, the self proclaimed “Battle King” from Chicago’s South Side, raps with a down-to-earth style and claims most of his subway performances are freestyles. In an interview with doorsclosingchi, Solow shared why he chooses to perform at Jackson Station of all places:

    “More people, and people that actually care to listen. You got people that pass through and actually like music; they’re not like, ‘Oh my God, I just came from work, I don’t want to hear nothing’! These people feel good and they want to hear some more of something else to make them feel good, so I prefer to be here.”

    Although he recently threw questionable jabs at popular rappers Young Thug, Chief Keef, and Cam’ron, his outlook on life is positive: 

    “Somebody gon’ like your boy, man. I don’t care if I don’t get nothing but a feature. For all the people that think I’m homeless, OK, let’s say I’m homeless. But something gon’ happen, and I won’t be homeless long.”

    Here’s a video of Solow freestyling about basketball and using words suggested by the crowd gathered at Jackson:

    You can follow Solow Redline on Facebook and Soundcloud.

    Screengrab via YouTube


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    Since many consider Angry Birds a relic from a time when iPhones didn’t bend and iClouds didn’t rain down nudes, an animated film may be just the revitalization the game franchise needs. Yes, after adorning school supplies, clothing, and everything else you can buy at Spencer’s Gifts, Rovio Entertainment's angry birds and their pig nemeses will be launching onto the silver screen in 2016.

    But what’s to keep the film from seeming like a desperate marketing attempt to seem relevant again? The caliber of voice talent attached. 

    Though the cast was first unlocked in the game when lucky players fired off the billionth angry bird into a pile of pigs, Sony made the official announcement on Wednesday. The studio proudly proclaimed that Jason Sudeikis would be leading the flock as Red, alongside Josh Gad as speedy Chuck, and Danny McBride as the volatile Bomb.


    Photo via Variety

    Expect to hear Saturday Night Live alums including Maya Rudolph as Matilda and Bill Hader as one of the greedy pigs. In addition to Peter Dinklage as the Mighty Eagle, the hilarious Kate McKinnon, Keegan-Michael Key, Tony Hale, Ike Barinholtz, Hannibal Buress, and Jillian Bell will all be lending their voice talents to the project. YouTube has even supplied some of the voices for the upcoming film, enlisting the beloved duo, Smosh (Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla). 

    Even though a July 2016 release date seems far away, it's never too early to break out those Angry Bird fleece pajama pants again! 

    H/T Badass Digest | Photo via vancouverfilmschool/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) 


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    Thanks to an ever-increasing richness of complex and diverse characters in television, GLAAD's 2014 update on the state of representation in TV is nowhere near as dire as its previous report on film.

    In short, things are looking up—but there's still a long way to go. While the overall amount of queer and genderqueer content on network television is higher, just 4 percent of regularly appearing characters on TV are LGBTQ.

    There were no regularly appearing transgender characters on broadcast networks this year, and only one regular trans character on cable, thanks to ABC Family's The Fosters.

    The latest version of GLAAD's Network Responsibility Index focused on 15 networks that produced content during the 2013-2014 programming year—and for the first time in the report's history, three different networks earned "Excellent" ratings for their commitment to diversity.

    HBO, ABC Family, and MTV are all leading the pack in satisfying increasing consumer demand for diverse media content.

    And Fox became the highest-scoring network in television history, with 42 percent of its programming hours featuring positive LGBTQ representations. 

    But now that this goalpost has been reached, GLAAD is upping its standards. Next year, in order to receive an "Excellent" rating, networks must feature "significant transgender content"—a move the organization is making in direct response to the overall lack of representation of trans characters, something this year's report focused on significantly.

    The report praised Netflix and Amazon for giving the world complex trans characters on Orange Is the New Black and Transparent. While noting that the rise to prominence of Laverne Cox and other trans actors had created a "media moment" due to these shows, the report also admonished the television networks in its study for continuing historical patterns of minor or solely negative representation of these men and women.

    "It’s no coincidence that new online content creators like Netflix and Amazon feature some of the most groundbreaking and fully realized depictions of transgender characters," the report stated.

    On the subject of queer representation overall, the report noted that "The continuing exclusion of LGBT people overall from some networks begins to appear more politically polarized with each passing year."

    The survey looked at the number of LGBT-inclusive hours of programming for the five broadcast networks and 10 cable networks, along with the amount of racial and gender diversity reflected among examples of queer representation.

    Fox easily did well in all areas, primarily thanks to the diverse cast of Glee and the numerous real-life queer creators who feature prominently on So You Think You Can Dance.

    While the CW may be ever-popular with fandom thanks to its homerotic white dudes, its lack of diversity hurt it significantly in the GLAAD ranking: A whopping 76 percent of its programming hours featured gay content and 36 percent featured bisexual content, but it only mustered a "Good" rating overall because most of those characters were white men.

    And despite the commitment of individual CBS shows like The Good Wife and Elementary to diversity, the network only mustered an "Adequate" overall.

    Here's the breakdown of network rankings:

    • Excellent: ABC Family, HBO, MTV
    • Good: ABC, The CW, FOX, NBC, FX, Showtime
    • Adequate: CBS, TLC, USA
    • Failing: A&E, History, TNT

    You can download and read the full responsibility index report here.

    Meanwhile, in GLAAD's second report, Where We Are on TV, the organization found that only 3.9 percent of regular characters in the upcoming season will be lesbian, gay, or bisexual. None were genderqueer.

    The GLAAD report also took note of the overall state of representation for other segments of Hollywood's minorities:

    Of the 813 overall regular characters on broadcast primetime, the percentage of female characters has declined to 40% from 43% last year.  People of color will make up 27% of all regular characters, while just 1.4% will be depicted as people with disabilities.

    The full report is available here.

    Illustration by Elle Couerblanc/Flickr (CC BY SA 3.0)


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    If you’re not a Christian, Satan really doesn’t want you to see Left Behind.

    Beelzebub apparently threw in his two cents about the upcoming Christian thriller Left Behind, which opens in around 1,800 theaters on Friday. The Nicolas Cage-led flick about an apocalyptic world after Christians are taken to heaven is based on the popular faith-based book series of the same name.

    A picture from the film’s Facebook page shows a panicked crowd with a note from the devil himself asking Christians not to bring “unbelievers” to the theater, presumably because it could scare them into becoming Christians themselves. 

     


    Left Behind’s promotion company is pulling out all the stops to bring religious viewers to the movie theater. The film’s Twitter and Facebook pages share theologies about the Rapture as a possibly true event, and there are ministry kits available on the film’s website that include six weeks of group Bible study. 

    The film’s stars and key backers have also been very vocal about the film, as well as their faith. This includes Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson, who’s an executive producer, as well as American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. Film star Nicolas Cage even said his pastor brother inspired him to do the film. 

    And it’s not just about faith. For some of the people behind the film, it’s also a warning of what’s to come.

    “People often say, you know, ‘Is this a big deal, where the good people go and the bad people stay?’” Left Behind co-author Jerry B. Jenkins said on The Glenn Beck Program. “And I have to say, having been a Christian most of my life, there are some people that will go that are worse than the people who stay.” 

    It’s no surprise, considering almost half of Christians not only believe the Rapture will happen, but that it will be within the next 40 years. That’s known in Christian theology as the end times, the period right before true Christians are lifted up to heaven and there’s a seven-year tribulation before Jesus Christ returns. 

    Still, others have called Satan’s anti-endorsement “tongue-in-cheek,” mainly because director Vic Armstrong has been relatively quiet about the film’s subject material. He told Yahoo! Movies earlier this year he didn’t even know Left Behind was based on the Bible when he first read the script. 

    “[My agent] David said, ‘Well, what about the religious aspect?’ And I said, ‘What religious aspect?’” Armstrong told Yahoo! Movies. “He said, ‘Didn’t you find it strange when people disappeared on the plane and everything?’ I said, ‘David, I did Starship Troopers, and I didn’t question it when great big bugs came climbing over the hill and ripped people’s heads off. That’s the world I live in.’” 

    Photo via Mr. Thomas/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)


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    Denny’s is a social media powerhouse, especially Tumblr and Twitter, where it has inspired a fanbase that rivals some of the biggest media-based fandoms. So it’s only natural that the diner would turn to YouTube for its next wave of digital domination.

    This month, Denny’s will unveil a webseries inspired by its iconic Grand Slam breakfast, teaming up with Seth Green’s production company Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. The company will bring the sensibilities it honed on Robot Chicken to a tale of Egg, Bacon, Pancake, and Sausage as they have adventures in and around their booth.

    Loyal Denny’s fans are already reacting with the perfect mix of excitement and disbelief. “This is a real thing? Oh lord… I…can’t wait?” reblogged Tumblr user pigquet. “I never know if Denny’s is joking,” wrote Tumblr user youllbesorrysweetie.

    Fans will be able to get a taste of the very-much-not-a-joke webseries on TheGrandSlams.com or Denny’s YouTube channel starting Oct 15.

    H/T The Video Ink | Screengrab via Denny’s/YouTube


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    Epic Rap Battles of History gets even more epic in their fourth season, with a move to weekly episodes when the series returns in November.

    ERB finished its last run in July with a matchup between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Renaissance artists from whom they get their names; the channel went quiet until this week when a new video announcing the Nov. 10 season premiere and format change appeared. Instead of biweekly episodes, rap battles will be coming at the channel’s 10.9 million subscribers every Monday.

    "We moved to weekly release schedule because we wanted to give fans a more condensed barrage of battles,” EpicLLOYD, co-creator of the series, told the Daily Dot via email. “We figured it be really fun to throw as much chum in the water as we could, in the least amount of time, and then let the feeding frenzy begin."

    The announcement video is pretty epic in itself. It feature a ghost Adolf Hitler getting zapped with the ray of a proton pack, then cuts to the series creators dressed as Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage. Could there be a Mythbusters vs. Ghostbusters battle in the future?

    H/T Tubefilter | Screengrab via ERB/YouTube


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    The first confirmed case of Ebola has been diagnosed in the U.S., but this probably isn’t how people imagined it going.

    Between the widespread panic and the jokes being passed on social media, tension has been high lately, but for Conan O’Brien, no hot topic is too serious to tackle. You see, everyone has been assured that the best scientists and doctors in Texas are on the case.

    However, his idea of how it’s going is probably a lot different than what’s actually happening down in Dallas. Those doctors are taking a more hands-on approach, and by the end of it they’ll bring it down almost instantly. That virus is going down at any cost.

    Photo via Team Coco/YouTube


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    This past May, singer-songwriter Meghan Tonjes took the booty selfie heard round the world.

    For Tonjes, this act wasn’t any different than the hundreds of other butt photos she’d uploaded along her body transformation on Instagram. Except this time, Instagram flagged the photo as pornographic. Taking to her YouTube channel, Tonjes challenged the claim, claiming the site had only targeted her photo because she was a curvy, plus-sized lady.

    To those of us already in love with Tonjes, it seemed only fitting that she would use this experience to continue her campaign of promoting positive body image: Enter the Booty Revolution. The campaign exists on both Tumblr and Instagram, and in the short time it’s been active, hundreds of people of all shapes, genders, and sexes have shared their own photos celebrating their bodies. The revolution’s conversation gained national news coverage, and eventually, Instagram reinstated the photo and apologized to Tonjes for the mistake.

    “My life was seeing other women who looked like me, and I kind of want other people to be like, 'OK, just because I’m being inundated by images of incredibly beautiful, incredibly Photoshopped, incredibly oversaturated images of what we should be; if we see realistic images and other women that [are] happy, it makes us feel a little less alone with where we are,'” Tonjes said of her campaign. “We need to educate ourselves on other bodies, and we need to be kind because usually when someone attacks your body and says, 'This isn’t worthy, this is disgusting,' [it] doesn’t say anything about me, that says something about them.”

    Long before she was the mother of the Booty Revolution, Tonjes was a girl from Michigan with a love of music and a lot to say about, well, everything. In 2006, Tonjes started her main YouTube channel as a place to simply store her music. Looking back, she laughs at her first 10 videos, in which she didn’t even talk—she just turned on the camera, played her song, and signed off. Her big break came after her appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where she recounted for a national audience her journey of overcoming bullying she endured because of her weight. Over the years, she has made her channel a home to her original songs, covers, vlogs, and commentary on social issues such as body image, and most recently, the Sam Pepper sexual harassment allegations.

    She produces two videos a week, answering questions and taking requests directly from her audience every Tuesday during the segment Frequently Asked Tonjes (F.A.T.). It’s this kind of direct interaction that has fostered a strong and tight-knit community around Tonjes not only among her fans but fellow YouTubers as well. She also regularly posts on her secondary channels LifesizeBeauty and meghantonjes, a gaming and lifestyle channel.

    Shortly after joining YouTube, Tonjes founded her own project, Project Lifesize, with the hope of starting conversations with plus-sized women and their need for greater representation in the media. “I started that because I was getting so many comments from girls saying, ‘I look like you, but I read your comments and I couldn’t do music; I couldn’t do anything like that,’” Tonjes said. “I thought that was so sad that people are stopping themselves from doing something they would have a lot of fun doing because they see a comment.”

    Tonjes is arguably one of the greatest pioneers on the YouTube platform when it comes to combating society’s rigid notions about body image and beauty. Her bravery in the face of hateful comments has inspired younger girls, who make up a huge portion of her audience, to stop shaming themselves about their weight. “I had never heard, growing up, about feeling good in your body and not feeling like when you hit a certain weight or a certain size then all of a sudden you’re perfect,” Tonjes recalled. “I don’t subscribe to that idea; I never have. I might not fit into a certain mold, but I’m worth things. I’m still worth respect and love, and I can be funny and I can be sexy and I wanted this world that I see to come to reality.”

    Her inspiring attitude and refreshing viewpoints have crowned her one of the most well-known body activists on YouTube. Despite her packed résumé of internationally touring musician—"Canada counts," she laughs—and constant invitations to body positivity conferences, Tonjes expresses a level of comfort in our interview that makes her words of advice feel as if they are just meant for me. Curled up between her adorable pup Margo and her roommate Keith, one of her favorite people in the entire world, Tonjes seems just as at home here as on the YouTube stage. But it’s the off-camera moments that she relishes: the daily trips to Santa Monica for the Godmother sandwich she’s obsessed with, gaming nights with her roommate and the weekly podcast they produce together at their kitchen table, laughing at her dating misfortunes, her theories on the internal rotting of Los Angeles men, and her past profession as a 15-year-old fanfiction writer.

    “Being a bigger girl, you’re taught to feel that you just deserved whatever you get because you’re lucky to get that,” Tonjes candidly said as we discussed the L.A. dating lifestyle. “I think getting older, I started to realize no, you can get a lot of things that you didn’t think you could get and dudes that might not necessarily just be into big girls. It’s kind of more than your body and kind of how you carry yourself. If you feel good in your body, other people are going to want to be around you, and dudes are going to be attracted to that.”

    Listening to Tonjes, it’s hard not to be inspired to go accomplish your wildest dreams and let her level of frankness bleed into your own vernacular. And there's more where that comes from: For the rest of the year, Tonjes is working toward producing an EP of original songs, going back on tour with Mike Falzone, and what the heck, maybe even writing a book. But one thing is for certain, we can definitely count on the booty pictures to keep on coming and for Tonjes to continue serving social justice on a weekly basis.

    “Being fat is the best thing that ever happened to me,” Tonjes laughed. “People are like, it’s the worst thing, but kind of the best thing that’s happened to me because I think it’s made me have to work incredibly hard and be incredibly passionate and deal with people that underestimate me a lot. It’s worked in my favor, so I’m lucky for that.”

    Screengrab via Meghan Tonjes/YouTube


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    Adam Sandler has signed an exclusive four-movie deal with Netflix—and perhaps for the dumbest reason.

    Just the other day, Netflix announced that the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel would be its first feature film in 2015. Netflix would team with Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison Productions, and the first of the four movies (presumably comedies) could arrive as early as 2015.

    There’s no word on whether there’s a plan to bring the movies to theaters; AMC and Regal are already protesting the plans to bring Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to IMAX theaters.

    While Sandler’s more recent films have been almost universally panned by critics—New York Times film critic A.O. Scott describes Sandler’s character as “both über-doofus and ultimate mensch, disguising his tireless bullying in childish voices” in a viral review of Blended—he’s proven that he’s still box office gold. His films have grossed approximately $3.9 billion worldwide, and according to Netflix, his films on the streaming service are consistently the most-viewed by subscribers both in the U.S. and beyond.

    Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos praised Sandler, and said that his appeal “spans across viewers of all ages—everybody has a favorite movie, everyone has a favorite line—not just in the U.S. but all over the world.”

    Sandler’s reasoning for signing the deal with Netflix is a lot less diplomatic.

    “When these fine people came to me with an offer to make four movies for them, I immediately said yes for one reason and one reason only... Netflix rhymes with Wet Chicks,” he said in a statement. “Let the streaming begin!”

    The possible vacations may have also had something to do with it.

    H/T Variety | Photo via Mario Antonio Pena Zapatería/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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    Briefly is a heady, visually rich film that brings to mind a glorious gastronomical experience that thrills an audience of extreme foodies but leaves most of us craving a cheeseburger. Except in this case, the foodies are advertising gurus, and the cheeseburger is a Mad Men marathon.

    From the minds of San Francisco-based marketing/branding firm Bassett and Partners comes Briefly, a 26-minute feature that examines the brief—the mission statement, treatise, premise, or whatever clever name you call the words that become the genesis of the next big thing. The notion of a brief is viewed through the lens of six creative sorts that span the agency and arts world each exercising his or her ability to add ethereal nuance to the narrative. Those who follow the world of digital marketing will share with their peers. The rest of us, not so sure.

    Briefly from Bassett & Partners on Vimeo.

    So then who is the audience for Briefly? “It’s not a general audience film,” says Tom Bassett, whose firm produced the project. He explains that examining the 1 percent of those who are recognized creative geniuses can help inspire the 99 percent of us who seek inspiration in whatever work we do. “I think it is more than an ad film,” says Bassett. “People from all walks of life can gain inspiration.” 

    For those familiar with the former AMC show, The Pitch, Briefly resembles the cute segments in which we, the viewer, become voyeurs as boutique agencies huddle to come up with pitches to convince big brands that can outslogan the competition and help sell more pizzas, Subway hoagies, Popchips, or Fuller Brush cleaning products. In the case of Briefly, however, the approach is broader than just clever ad work geared to sell stuff; we hear architect Frank Gehry speak to the turmoil around creating a memorial for former President Dwight Eisenhower and how social and political issues can play a major role in the deployment of what starts out as a simple brief. Often a brief can resonate in its basic premise, Gehry says in the film, but can lead to great disagreement in execution.

    The narrative of Briefly centers around interviews with David Rockwell, Gehry, John Boiler, Maira Kalman, John C. Jay, and Yves Behar, each providing his or her point of view about the role of the brief—a mixed drink with equal parts love and hate with a Zen-like swizzle stick. “I don’t believe in briefs; I believe in relationships,” opines Behar. “Audacious briefs make shit happen,” adds Boiler. Jay, whose agency developed the controversial 1996 Nike campaign for the Summer Olympics, comments: “You should cut the marketing bullshit and get to the truth.” 

    Perhaps bitten by the Mad Men bug, folks in marketing circa 2014 like to come off as modern-day versions of Don Draper, substituting groovy glasses and carefully rumpled hairstyles for ’60s unfiltered cigarettes and Brylcreem. Briefly has to be commended for capturing the raw and often unflattering personae of these thought leaders which gives the film an authentic feel. For example, comparing the essence of creating the ultimate marketing brief for a campaign to sell cellphones or athletic shoes to the Jewish Talmud pushes ego to new limits. Such unfiltered views add to the message that the commercially focused creative process is not one for shrinking violets. 

    Bassett’s approach to the topic is thoughtful; he notes that while the role of the ad agency has evolved from just being a purveyor of memorable taglines to being a provider of technology and other services, the brief is a constant that dates back to real-life Mad Men days.

    Ultimately, Bassett's film explores the question that spans his industry’s generations: “If every project starts with a brief, why do some wind up so much better than others?”

    Screengrab via Bassett & Partners/Vimeo


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    The publishing industry is perhaps no more rampantly incestuous than most, with one critical difference: sexual scandal, gossip, abuse, and betrayal among its members will almost always, one way or another, spill out in ink. Usually the digital kind, these days.

    This is especially true for the alt lit (or alternative literature) bubble—that hipster millennial sect, tied to Brooklyn but largely manifest online, which prides itself on a deadpan hyper-transparency, a blurring of fiction and bracing fact meant to signal a self-awareness that’s typically in frightfully short supply. Marie Calloway’s “Adrien Brody,” a 2011 essay about an awkward sexual encounter with Rob Horning, the executive editor of the New Inquiry, is a canonical example.

    Less well known is “Can I Come Over, in Case I’m Gonna Die or Something,” a 2013 Thought Catalog piece by Stephen Tully Dierks, who edits the alt lit magazine Pop Serial. In it, Dierks briefly describes a college girlfriend who “said she used to sit in a closet and cry thinking about Kurt Cobain killing himself”—or his efforts to turn her into art, anyway:

    I tried to write honestly how I felt about her one time and I showed it to a friend who was in grad school, a poet, and he said I was being kind of creepy, that it was creepy how I wrote about her. I didn’t think it was creepy. I guess what I want to do is, I want to write about a relationship as it’s happening and never publish any of it.

    That same year, Safy-Hallan Farah wrote a Fanzine essay that called out Dierks and others for exemplifying, according to the editor's note, “the quiet ways institutionalized racism, sexism, and homophobia operate in the alt lit community.” The article was later redacted to shift its focus away from the individuals named and back to the broader problem—and because someone threatened legal action.

    The specter of a lawsuit is unlikely to insulate Dierks from the new accusations alluded to above: In “We Don’t Have to Do Anything,” an essay published on Medium, writer Sophia Katz recounts how she was offered a place to stay when visiting New York—and then repeatedly raped—by a publishing figure she gave the pseudonym “Stan.” Shortly afterward, in a Tumblr post, Sarah Jean Alexander identified Stan as Dierks, her former roommate. “I lived with this person for a year,” she wrote. “I listened to the way he spoke about his exgirlfriend after she broke up with him. I listened when he told me he ‘didn’t see the point of hanging out with any of his female friends’ because at the end of the day he doesn’t get to fuck them. …

    “We shouldn’t be afraid to discuss this publicly when Sophia has been brave enough to call out her abuser in a community where he has immense support and friendship,” concluded Alexander, who had withdrawn work from Pop Serial over Dierks’ misogyny long before hearing Katz’s story. “Stephen Tully Dierks should not be shielded because he is or was our friend. We should hold our friends as accountable as we hold everyone else, if not more.”

    With any number of social media channels dedicated to “Alt Lit Gossip,” it wasn’t long before Katz’s and Alexander’s comments made the rounds online. Dierks was forced to respond on Facebook in a post that was later deleted, along with his Tumblr and Twitter accounts. 

    Screengrab via Gawker
     

    This apology was undercut when two more women came forward. The first took a screenshot of Katz’s essay and uploaded it to Instagram with a caption that told a very similar story:

    i've been so upset since i read this earlier today. so many of my feelings are finally validated. the rapist in this story is a person i have slept with. most of our sex was consensual but tbh not all of it was. i can barely remember the first time we had sex bc i was very drunk, but all of what i do remember fits this story perfectly: i needed a place to crash and was happy to sleep on the floor but he insisted i sleep in his bed, the pressure to have sex even tho other ppl were around, the refusal to wear a condom, the pressure to drink/do drugs. we didn't have sex sober ever, not even once. is it still rape if you consent sometimes but not always? i feel hurt/confused/sad/stupid. the woman who wrote this is incredibly brave and i have more respect for her than words can convey. you should read it.

    According to Tiffany Wines, an 18-year-old college freshman who became the third woman to charge Dierks with rape, this post triggered an epiphany, along with her own Tumblr response. Absent such “bravery and candor,” she wrote, “I might never have found the courage to come forward with my own story and accept the reality of what happened to me.” 

    Wines’ experience with Dierks, echoing Katz’s and that of the Instagram user (who will remain anonymous here), brought a pattern of abuse into even sharper focus: psychological coercion over physical force, false feminism, and a raging sense of entitlement. The targets were women drawn into Dierks’ circle as fans of alt lit writers or up-and-comers looking to make connections. And the revelation that Dierks had plied the underage Wines with alcohol raised another troubling thought: The women he allegedly preyed on were all quite young.

    “Absolutely,” Wines told me in a Gchat when I asked whether Dierks’ apparent fixation on younger women was indicative of a larger problem in the alt lit scene. “There's a lot of fetishization. I've been experiencing it in this community for literally years.” She started befriending members of the scattered clique via poet Steve Roggenbuck, one of Dierks’ frequent collaborators, in October 2012, “a few months shy of my 17th birthday. I completely hid my age outside of a few people I elected to mention it to until my 18th,” she explained.

    “Meeting people came along naturally with being a fan,” Wines said. “Often I would find that, when flirted with by older men in the Alt Lit community, when I would disclose my age, instead of backing off, they were aroused by it in a fucked-up way.” (Reading this message, I was reminded that Gawker’s Max Read had recently raised an eyebrow over the rumor that David Shapiro, the alt lit-related author of Pitchfork Reviews Reviews and You’re Not Much Use to Anyone, is dating the precocious fashion blogger-turned-actress Tavi Gevinson: She’s 18 years old, and he’s 26, but he first met and gushed about her when she was just 15.)    

    “Pedophilia is Alt Lit's dirty little non-secret,” Wines told me. “It's the elephant in the room. Until recently people just didn't talk about it, unless people were brave enough ... But those people were ultimately silenced and shut down.” She pointed me to the Twitter feed of E.R., formerly Ellen Kennedy. Now identifying as a trans man, E.R. says that his teenage life was fodder for Richard Yates, a novel by Tao Lin, the man most associated with the alt lit brand. The 2010 book “tracks the rise and fall of an illicit affair between a very young writer and his even younger—in fact, underaged—lover,” and, according to E.R., is straight memoir.  

    “I've been friends with Ellen the past ~7 years,” Lin wrote in an email when asked for comment. “I published her book, talked to her in emails consistently. Then she told me yesterday in an email that she intends to press charges against me for statutory rape.” He has never denied having a consensual sexual relationship when he was 22 and Kennedy 16, though he emphasized that Richard Yates was only published with Kennedy’s approval.

    Facing pressure over E.R.’s tweets, Lin refined and expanded on his points in a post on his Facebook wall, saying that he had now offered E.R. all the royalties from Richard Yates and requested that his indie publisher, Melville House, stop printing and/or selling the title.


    In a later email, Lin said he was in the process of securing legal counsel, as a friend had informed him that “rape allegations are potentially career-ruining even if they aren’t real.” He painted a shade of gray between himself and Dierks, who declined to speak on the record for this article, arguing that Kennedy had previously defended him against an accusation of statutory rape leveled by her mother. He was filled with “self-loathing” about his emotional abuses but not so much the decision to date a teen who evidently had problems of her own.  

    Even before E.R. “lashed out” at Lin, readers had flagged paternally sexist trends in his and affiliated writers’ work—which might not be so disturbing were it not for their tendency to present it as entirely sincere and unfiltered. Just last month, in Luna Luna Magazine, Diana Dragonetti took Lin to task for “male projection” in Richard Yates and the way he fetishizes the power that his protagonist has over his young companion, “both in [the] sense of his adulthood and in his control of the narrative.” He also notes that the novel “acknowledges the impossibility of consent” in the relationship, with Kennedy’s character remarking, “You raped me like ten times,” and Lin’s researching the age of consent in New York: 17.  

    Dragonetti criticizes Roggenbuck, too, for his “‘sad girl’ misogyny,” and laments the sentimentalization of rape culture undertaken—in fiction and conceptual HTMLGiant blog posts alike—by Steven Trull, alias Janey Smith. What complicates these readings further is that the straight males of the alt lit community are educated and theoretically liberal, well-versed in the language of gender equality but able to throw semantic smoke bombs or cry “artistic license” when confronted for their objectifying language—this despite their reputation as the post-irony set. Yet, as Emily Swanson writes on HTMLGiant, Gawker is off the mark to blame Dierks’ behavior on alt lit’s supposed “boys’ club” mentality: Women—including Mira Gonzalez, Gabby Bess, and Melissa Broder—have done more than their share to define and carry the movement. Meanwhile, Dierks can’t truly be said to have occupied a place of special importance or influence within it; many of his prolific and chronically underpaid peers enjoy equal stature.

    The reality may be that the Internet itself facilitates these imbalanced relationships between alt lit men and teenage women—it’s a medium that in many ways abolishes the distinctions of age, which assert themselves once more when two people come face to face, the younger then adapting to a submissive role. “It was very easy to continue to be friends with Stephen” following her rape, Wines told me. “I worked hard to convince myself that what had happened was consensual, and so I started to believe it. ... He tried to coerce me into having sex with him again about a month later, and I stayed friends with him through that too.” Though she now feels impassioned to speak out, she’s “very disheartened and numb at the same time.”

    Beyond this fatalist dynamic, alt lit writers have been known to romanticize the raw, roiling, and somehow purer emotions of pubescence: One recalls the succession of young women kept by J.D. Salinger over the course of his long New Hampshire hibernation, thrown out into the cold when they no longer met his ideal of vulnerable innocence. One of Dierks’ own deleted tweets belies a desire to exploit or ensnare young women going through life’s trickiest transition.

    At this moment, women “are feeling emboldened and encouraged to speak out about their experiences, at great risk,” Amy King, who sits on the executive board of VIDA, an organization that fosters “further transparency around gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture,” told the Daily Dot in an email. “Like women who have done so before them, they must brace for detractors, naysayers and be ready to defend against the mere act of speaking out, before we even get to the details of their experiences. Numbers, however, speak louder than the details right now.” This isn’t just an alt lit problem, she added:    

    The idea of fetishizing girls is not new. Female writers have long been pushed to embody and enact such ideas, whether through coercion or outright abuse, which comes as no surprise nor is this push limited to the Alt-Lit community. Coercion within any writerly community gains traction when men in positions of perceived power: editors, publishers or writers of some note insist on positioning female writers on the spectrum of objectification to infantilization for a variety of so-called rewards—tokenizing through publication enters and gives way to harsher cases of dogged physical insistence that includes assault, as in the case of Steven Tully Dierks, for the sake of simply not making waves or risking being sidelined or even excluded from the community. It seems a clarion of sorts is being sounded in response to the lip-service that Alt-Lit is a special, all inclusive community for young writers, but at what cost. The cost is male business-as-usual, cloaked in a gloss of presumed equal footing for all, but without the actualization of said opportunities.

    King sees the opportunity for change, however: a number of men “are not only shouting down naysayers, they are calling for all men to listen to women, without defense, and to stop the usual circling of the wagons.” She quoted author Mike Young, who had just written “a Facebook call to male feminists for that very purpose.” Originally a private response to the allegations against Dierks, with whom Young is personally but problematically acquainted, the essay gained traction, prompting Young to make it public. It addresses the vortex of privilege and complacency in which personhood can be lost, with Young acknowledging that “more important waxing is for me to listen and think.”

    Sound advice, though for men more disposed to advance their own views than assimilate any others, it may prove easier said than done.

    Corrections: An earlier version of this article named Lisa Marie Basile as the author of the Luna Luna piece, which was actually written by Diana Dragonetti; the editor’s note is Basile’s. Mike Young’s quote has been edited to reflect that it’s drawn from the context of a much longer comment.

    Photo by Tom Martin/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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