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- 10/23/14--12:59: _Oscar-nominated doc...
- 10/23/14--13:59: _Watch 'If You Give ...
- 10/23/14--14:05: _Zelda Williams post...
- 10/23/14--15:07: _'Homestar Runner' i...
- 10/23/14--15:12: _Prominent YouTubers...
- 10/23/14--16:59: _Millennial males co...
- 10/24/14--01:55: _Vine star Jerome Ja...
- 10/24/14--05:46: _AwesomenessTV talen...
- 10/24/14--06:02: _Neil Patrick Harris...
- 10/24/14--06:53: _George Lucas turns ...
- 10/24/14--07:00: _Dan Hoyle puts the ...
- 10/24/14--08:19: _Aaron Paul battles ...
- 10/24/14--08:39: _Enjoy this weird an...
- 10/24/14--11:01: _Zoe Saldana's new A...
- 10/24/14--11:58: _Wi-Fi-connected mus...
- 10/24/14--12:17: _Here's the Bette Mi...
- 10/24/14--15:47: _Watch this YouTube ...
- 10/25/14--07:00: _In the back seat wi...
- 10/25/14--07:00: _The craftiest scien...
- 10/25/14--08:55: _Watch this woman do...
- 10/23/14--13:59: Watch 'If You Give a Mouse a Cookie' rebooted as a horror film
- 10/23/14--15:12: Prominent YouTubers call out the platform's problem with privilege
- 10/23/14--16:59: Millennial males courted by Complex Media with new YouTube network
- 10/24/14--01:55: Vine star Jerome Jarre just got offered a million dollars
- 10/24/14--05:46: AwesomenessTV talent is coming soon to a retail outlet near you
- 10/24/14--06:02: Neil Patrick Harris dishes on nude scenes with Conan
- 10/24/14--06:53: George Lucas turns this interview into a 'Star Wars' mythology class
- 10/24/14--07:00: Dan Hoyle puts the Internet in its place with 'Each and Every Thing'
- 10/24/14--08:39: Enjoy this weird animated short about Adam Sandler and Shaq's penis
- 10/24/14--11:01: Zoe Saldana's new AOL webseries accidentally honors the wrong woman
- 10/24/14--15:47: Watch this YouTube star's surprisingly strong directorial debut
- 10/25/14--08:55: Watch this woman do 25 celebrity impressions while singing CeeLo
The Internet has received its first trailer for Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence, his follow-up to 2013’s heavily awarded The Act of Killing. It opens with the film’s central subject, Adi, interviewing an indifferent man, offscreen, on the Indonesian political landscape still controlled by those responsible for a 1965 genocide that resulted in the deaths of approximately a million people.
“No, I don’t think it’s a big problem… That’s politics,” says the man.
Oppenheimer knew after completing The Act of Killing, which focused on the perpetrators of the genocide in ’65, that a second film focusing on the plight of the survivors was in order. He’d met Adi in 2003 on an oil palm plantation that had been the focus of his film prior to Killing, The Globalization Tapes. Adi and others on the plantation were responsible for originally bringing Oppenheimer’s attention to the genocide, urging him to return to the country and speak to those responsible for it. Adi’s brother, Ramli, had been killed in the genocide in a manner that had differentiated from the norm at the time; his murder, unlike others, had been public, with his body left on the plantation for his family and the community to find. Word of the killing spread around, intimidating those in the area.
Having been born after the genocide, Adi makes a fitting subject for the film; he’s heavily affected by the events in ’65, but can suitably keep himself together while encountering those responsible. He extensively studied the footage shot for Killing, which included an interview with a man involved in the death of his brother.
Oppenheimer returned to Indonesia in 2012 to follow Adi and to explore those kept in silence. He shot the footage before Killing was released, as he figured that Indonesia would not be a hospitable place for him to travel around afterward. As the director notes on the film’s website:
Maybe the film is a monument to silence—a reminder that although we want to move on, look away and think of other things, nothing will make whole what has been broken. Nothing will wake the dead. We must stop, acknowledge the lives destroyed, strain to listen to the silence that follows.
The trailer closes with Adi speaking to a man involved in the ’65 killings.
“If I came to you like this during the military dictatorship, what you have done to me?” he asks.
“You can’t imagine what would have happened,” the man responds, looking troubled by the thought.
The film does not yet have a release date for the U.S., but, as noted by Deadline, has screened in Telluride, Toronto, and New York so far on the festival circuit.
In some ways, the classic children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is already a horror story. The little mouse demanding more and more until he circles back into an endless pattern of need. It’s no surprise that Gritty Reboots has turned that childhood story into a terrifying thriller in its newest video.
Gritty Reboots takes popular video games, TV shows, and movies, and turns them into gritty, often terrifying trailers. In the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie edition, the camera zooms through a house torn apart by the machinations of an evil mouse, from spilt milk to someone endlessly cutting their hair. In ends on the original boy, pleading with the mouse that he’s got nothing left to give, until the rodent demands the ultimate sacrifice.
Lesson learned—keep your cookies to yourself.
Screengrab via Gritty Reboots / YouTube
When Robin Williams passed away in August, the world lost a hilarious comedian and prolific actor, but Zelda Williams lost a father. While the majority of those online were quick to dispatch tweets of sympathy and condolences to Zelda and her family, some trolls were cruel enough to tweet Photoshopped images depicting the fake autopsy of the actor. Those unspeakable acts of cruelty carried out on social media were enough to drive Williams away from both Twitter and Instagram for a while, but on Wednesday she returned.
In her first post since taking a hiatus from the photo-sharing app, the daughter of the late comedian posted an image of her right hand newly inked with a hummingbird tattoo. The delicate bird, which was inked by artist Dr. Woo of the famous Hollywood tattoo parlor Shamrock Social, takes its place next to the date of her father’s birthday, which Zelda has on her wrist.
In her Instagram post, she dedicated that tattoo to her father, writing, “For poppo. Thank you to the incomparable @dr_woo_ssc for so beautifully bringing my reminders to life. I'll always put my hand out to shake with a smile.” Zelda went on to explain that she’s still unsure if she’ll continue to be an active user of the app, but she will keep her account intact to avoid those trying to impersonate her or prey on sympathies of others for scams.
“For the record, no one has ever or will ever speak for me but me," she concluded. "Thank you."
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Homestar Runner is getting back in costume for its first Halloween special in five years.
The famous webseries put out a teaser trailer for a new Halloween special on Monday. The tongue-in-cheek cartoon shows Homestar Runner dressing up as a neighborhood watch sign for a partnership with halloweensafety.gov—a site that, by the way, doesn’t actually exist.
It also promises a new Halloween special “sometime before Halloween.”
Fans have been eagerly anticipating Homestar Runner’s return ever since Mike and Matt Chapman shared a teaser video on April Fools' Day. They’ve since come out with a hip-hop jam dedicated to the fisheye lens, starring Strong Bad and Coach Z. Strong Bad has also joined the social media age with his own Twitter account.
Too many 'How do you tweet with boxing gloves on' tweets! Must... drop... train on em!! pic.twitter.com/Eijem8DCfL— Strong Bad (@StrongBadActual) October 15, 2014
According to an interview with Rolling Stone, the Brothers Chaps plan on releasing new videos every couple of months. The brothers, who had a development deal with Disney and also worked on Yo Gabba Gabba!, say they’re getting back into it for the love of the series and its characters
Homestar Runner’s Halloween specials are some of the most famous videos on the site, with the characters dressing up in the best costumes pop culture has to offer. And fans have also been known to get into the Halloween spirit, dressing up as their favorite characters. Though usually, that doesn’t include the Poopsmith.
Photo via Sharat Ganapatl/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Does YouTube have a privilege problem?
The (white, cisgendered) guys behind AsapTHOUGHT and AsapSCIENCE think so, and they took to their channel to call out the privilege of many YouTube creators with a provocative new video this week. They go through Peggy McIntosh’s Privilege Checklist, applying it to themselves and asking viewers who might fall into these privileged categories to be aware of their unique position.
They also call out YouTube and YouTube events for their lack of ethnic and gender diversity.
“To be honest, it’s hard to keep going to these events and not seeing enough diversity or women on the panels and in positions of power,” Gregory Brown, one half of the duo, says in the video. “If YouTube itself and YouTube events had mandates that ensured that other diverse voices were heard, it would inspire a new generation of YouTubers to feel represented and passionate.”
As we’ve noted before, at major events like VidCon, there’s a stark contrast in the number of female creators versus male creators that attain the highest level of notoriety, and many of those female creators are part of female-dominated spaces like beauty and fashion, while men enjoy a broader range of topics. Likewise, diversity panels draw more heterogenous crowds of both attendees and panelists, but that same breakdown isn't visible across all panels or positions of power.
YouTube is a space where anyone has an entry point to become a creator, and through the community, anyone with a voice can rise among the ranks, so it's important that the AsapTHOUGHT guys push their own viewers to think about the systems in place that privilege the same people on YouTube that receive privilege in other media. That’s the first step to fighting against it.
Screengrab via AsapTHOUGHT/YouTube
Complex Media, the Web’s multiplatform destination for millennial males, is extending its foray into YouTube with the launch of a new multi-channel network aimed at bringing together topics that connect with its already existing audience.
The MCN is launching with a bang, with 40 channels on board. They include Tony Hawk’s RideChannel, VLadTV, and Complex Magazine’s official channel, which has 6 million subscribers and 3.3 billion views.
By targeting the urban millennial male audience, Complex Media looks to situation itself as other demographically focused MCNs such as Tastemade for food programming and StyleHaul’s focus on fashion-minded female consumers. Falling under the urban millennial male umbrella are niche verticals targeted to pop culture, music, men’s fashion, sneaker culture, and sports, in line with Complex’s traditional media offerings.
“Our sales team has proven successful at amplifying campaigns across our publisher network of over 120 media brands on the editorial side,” said Video GM, Nathan Brown, in a statement. “We are excited to provide the same opportunity for video creators across YouTube as well as Complex Media’s own publishing brands.”
In addition to bringing in new channels, Complex will also mold its 23 current original series and productions into the five verticals, including award-winning docu-series Magnum Opus, Riff Raff Realm, which features the notorious rapper, Riff Raff, and Complex News, which produces 15 video news stories daily. Time will tell if Complex’s power in the urban market will translate into YouTube dominance.
Screengrab via ComplexMagazine/YouTube
Jerome Jarre has come a long way. Coming from a poor, one-parent family, the 24-year-old Frenchman is now the undisputed king of Vine—a social media aficionado who’s 6-second hijinks have netted him more than 7.5 million followers on the looping video platform.
A new video released by Jarre reveals that prior to Vine, he wasn’t in a good place. But a chance encounter and a few choice words inspired him to turn his life around, and the rise of Vine has seen him achieve things he never imagined. After moving to New York a year ago, big business has finally come knocking, with a seven-figure offer for the star—but Jarre’s still not happy.
Of course, the more cynical among us might point out that a million dollars isn't actually all that much in the showbiz world—and high-profile Viners can already make in excess of $30 thousand per single sponsored Vine. At that rate, Jarre would have to make less than 3 Vines per month—under 18 seconds—to earn his millionaire status. Jarre also operates his own social media agency, GrapeStory, so it's questionable as to whether he ever truly intended to go through with the unnamed advertising company's deal.
Regardless, it's hard to argue with Jarre's message—that you have to seize every moment and live it to the full. Just imagine… you’re 99 years old and you’re on your death bed. All of a sudden you have a chance to come back to right now. What would you do?
Screengrab via Jerome Jarre / YouTube | Remix by Rob Price
BY JOSHUA COHEN
The Janome Sewing Machine Co.’s 2008 model TB-30 was ahead of its time. Its 30 actual stitches, six one-step buttonholes, built-in one-hand needle threader, and laundry list of other features weren’t what set this affordable prosumer tool for the budding fashionista apart from its contemporaries. It was its more superficial accessories.
The Janome TB-30 was perhaps the first physical consumer product endorsed, branded, marketed, and promoted by an online video entity.
Way back in August 2008, the still independent Next New Networks (which is now the Google-owned YouTube Next Lab) and its “Not Yo Mama’s DIY Channel” Threadbanger (which is still cranking out videos at its home on YouTube) partnered with one of the leading manufacturers of sewing machines worldwide to put their literal stamp of approval on a product and help sell it to their hip, online video savvy, and presumably younger-ish audience.
Yes, early-and-mid-to-late 2000s online video powerhouses like Happy Tree Friends and Homestar Runner sold their own branded plush toys, action figures, apparel, pencils, and other such items for the kids those days, but never before the Threadbanger and Janome deal had a person, place, or thing made popular by way of online video collaborated with a manufacturer or a retailer in this capacity to make and release a licensed product.
It was a novelty back in 2008. It’s more common now in 2014. AwesomenessTV is hoping in the very near future to make it the norm.
The YouTube multi-channel-network that’s now a multi-hyphenate with an MCN, management company, record label, and book imprint all under its umbrella recently launched a Consumer Products and Creator Licensing Division with Jim Fielding at the helm. The new division will work closely with creators within and outside of the AwesomenessTV network to create, explore, and assess the growing number of retail opportunities afforded to online video talent in command of actionable audiences.
Read the full story on Tubefilter.
Photo via Michael/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed
Have you heard about Ted and Barney’s naked history?
After Neil Patrick Harris bared all in Gone Girl, Conan O’Brien decided to ask him a series of tough and low-hanging questions about his big sex scene. Harris was more than happy to answer them. It’s not the first time he’s been naked for a part, either.
In the Thursday night interview on Conan, Harris retold the story of how he and How I Met Your Mother costar Josh Radnor were naked together in a play in Los Angeles before they joined the show.
Few other people could make helicopters and windmills sound so charming yet dirty.
Screengrab via Team Coco/YouTube
Lucasfilm may now be in the hands of Disney, but George Lucas will always be the genius who first dreamed of and introduced us to that galaxy far, far away. So when the Maker decides to talk about the meaning of Star Wars, we stop to listen.
Lucas discussed the topic during an interview with Charlie Rose on Oct. 17 at Chicago Ideas Week. In the past, Lucas has touched on how myths and the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell influenced the creation of Star Wars, but here he talks in more depth about that mythology and how its messages—and thus the messages in Star Wars—appeal to everyone.
“With Star Wars, the religion and everything was so taken and put into a form that was easy for everyone to accept and so it didn’t fall into a contemporary mode where you could argue about it,” Lucas told Rose. “It went everywhere in the world because they could say, ‘Oh, the things I believe in are the same as that.’”
Lucas boils Star Wars down to two basic ideas: don’t kill people and love others. Words to live by.
Screenshot via Charlie Rose/YouTube
“First off, I’m not against the Internet,” Dan Hoyle told me over lunch. It’s a sentiment that snakes through Each and Every Thing, the actor and writer’s latest one-man show, which might otherwise be mistaken for a humorous polemic against our age of hyperconnection.
We were eating at Tom’s Restaurant, the uptown Manhattan diner whose façade appears often in Seinfeld—as good a place as any to talk about superficiality, I thought. But I didn’t want our conversation to just skim the surface of Hoyle’s highly developed and well-researched ideas about space and awareness. I wanted entrée to “Open Time,” a concept that figures prominently in the play and one that Hoyle takes pains to live by.
“Open Time is when you’re so locked into the moment that you’re using the heights of your perception to experience what’s happening,” Hoyle said. “I often find it when I'm talking with strangers. That’s a transformative experience. But a lot of people struggle to have Open Time, even with people they know.” The phrase itself comes from Hoyle’s good friend Pratim, a character whom he plays on stage with a melodious Indian voice and an invisible cigarette that seems to gesture more than the hand that holds it aloft. Though Hoyle skillfully mimics a number of people he’s met in the last decade, it’s Pratim who provides the play’s spiritual center, advocating for silence, drift, emptiness, and fine-tuned intuition.
It’s these things that may be threatened by Internet culture, Hoyle’s work argues: “The Internet is now available, with us, 24/7. It’s much different to be on the Internet in your house than to be scrolling through Instagram in a public space—because then public space becomes private space… Being more connected with your friends, being more connected with the world—it’s two different things.”
I would come to find that “different” was one of Hoyle’s most often deployed words—he has a knack for knocking down a facile metaphor, as when I tried to argue that his play functioned a bit like the Internet itself, a web of associative links.
But however kinetically comic the show, however it pinballs from Hoyle’s post-collegiate life chatting up corner boys in Chicago to the coffee houses of India to a party in Nebraska to a three-day stint in something called “Digital Detox,” with a sprinkling of musical interludes (a swagged-out rap song called “Phone Zombie” is a highlight), Hoyle never gives any facet of his kaleidoscope anything less than time to settle. This reinforced the points he would later make about our consumption of continuous content—especially the cascade of “news.”
“I’ve subscribed to a daily newspaper since I was 21, sometimes two or three,” Hoyle said—none too surprising from a man whose play includes a slow jam about getting down with the meaty Sunday edition. “I don’t read as much of the news if I go on nytimes.com; I read maybe two articles” before diving into “rabbit holes of randomness,” e.g. BuzzFeed, he explained. “I don’t like consuming news constantly. I like having an hour when I consume the news—and then move on to another activity. As a ritual, a daily lesson in empathy.”
Papers may have biases, he admits, “but there’s an intentionality. We have less and less common experience. [There’s value in] all receiving something that is the same.”
He then took aim at the people who might accuse him of nostalgia or Luddism:
There’s this triumphalist narrative, if you follow the ‘future of the news’ debate on Twitter, which I have—all these guys like Clay Shirky and Jeff Jarvis constantly, basically, cheering on the demise of these newspapers. Being like, ‘Oh yes, the great new age is going to come when everyone fucking realizes that nobody wants to read a newspaper anymore, and it’s all gonna be online!’ If people want to read the newspaper, let them read a friggin’ newspaper! If it dies out, it dies out.
Even discipline as admirable as Hoyle’s has chinks in it. “I find there’s something addictive about screens; I find myself pulled in and unconscious,” he said. “I find myself always battling with my concentration. [With] my work, I have to have long, sustained periods of concentration. If you can’t have an empty mind, there’s no space for good thoughts,” he concluded, paraphrasing Pratim. These feelings led him to books like Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together and Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, which confirmed his worrying suspicion that the Internet is rewiring our consciousness—and we’ve yet to fully recognize, let alone articulate, the effect.
This triggers Hoyle’s journey in the show: a road trip, a visit to Pratim’s analog homeland, and that detox retreat, where digital burnouts unplug completely. “I’m not lecturing people,” Hoyle said of that hilarious scene, which collects observations from people dazed by their return to a reality they’d all but forgotten. What’s fascinating here is Hoyle’s notion that the same impulse that drives us into social media is what eventually drives us away. “People talk about the fear of missing out,” he said. “There are also people who are starting to realize there’s things you can miss out on in the actual world… I think that that pendulum is starting to shift.”
Part of the tension, Hoyle said, lies in the need for assurances. “There’s such a pining for authenticity right now—authenticity is the new kind of currency,” he said. “Sherry Turkle talks a lot about this in her book; she’s been researching this for 30 years. People having an experience don’t feel they’ve had it until they’ve communicated it, and it is then validated. Which is so nuts!… You’re out and you see this amazing thing, your first impulse used to be, 'I’m gonna take a photo of that to capture it for myself.' Now you want to take a photo to share it with everyone else, then everyone else can say, ‘Oh you had that experience.’ Then you can say, ‘I had that experience.’” He mocked a series of T-Mobile ads touting “unlimited data”: “Take a photo of the concert, then share it on Facebook, and all your friends are looking at their screens and enjoying sharing this shit while you’re at a concert? That’s not cool!”
That he’s performing his own experience for an audience’s approval is something that’s not lost on Hoyle. “My show’s not a conversation—I hope my show sparks conversation,” he said. “There’s a lot of really smart people thinking about this stuff. There are ideological battles underneath this stuff… I hope my show is like a check-in—‘Oh, I value this stuff too.'” Most people “are not unaware of the times we’re living in, but they’re looking for a balance. I hope my show gives people an avenue to stroll down when they’re feeling that.” Noting that we may well be laughing about such issues in 20 or 30 years, he cut to the heart of his ambition:
I think we do have some agency to decide how we want this to go. We’re the generation that’s going to be making decisions and leading the world. Right now the norms are being set. [There’s a] desire to set norms that are the better angels of our nature, and that doesn’t happen unless we have a conversation about it. How can we use this amazing technology in a way that preserves our humanity, public space, democracy?
Hoyle agreed that he’s invested in honesty. On that score, he’s tickled by the “exclamation-pontification of online discourse”: “When I was growing up, we’d get these letters from an aunt, and they’d be like, ‘I had a really great time at the beach!’ And we’d laugh, we’d be like, ‘Oh my god, she’s so earnest.’ We’re all like that now, because there’s such an insecurity in appearing negative or responding negatively to friends… it’s not the end of the world, it’s just funny, and it’s worth saying, ‘Yes, we know this is happening.’”
The need to make ourselves seem more successful, happy, interesting, and above all talkative on the Web can be combated with Open Time. “Just look around and perceive what is happening and practice using [your] senses,” Hoyle said. “We’re so bombarded, we want to shut down, but with Open Time, you can be curious again.”
The Indian coffee shops were wonderful because “you didn’t have to talk, you didn’t have to fill in the silences,” he said. Instead two people can simply think about the same thing, together. Shutting up and paying attention is what gives us access to “other peoples’ realities,” and “anytime we’re curious about people, that in itself is a stretching-out of ourselves. That’s a good thing.”
When I parted ways with Hoyle, I was eager, as I had been after seeing his show at New York’s Public Theater, to locate a new appreciation for, well, each and every thing I encountered. It wasn’t long, of course, before I felt the tug of unanswered emails and Twitter notifications. The next day, Hoyle emailed to say that after our lunch, he showed up early to a meeting at Columbia University, his next venue. “But instead of scrambling to get in contact with my date as I did with you,” he wrote, “burrowing into my phone, finding your number, texting you to meet earlier so as to not waste time, I lay on my back on the Columbia campus and watched the clouds and my thoughts roll by for 20 minutes. It was great.”
It may not be easy to reconnect with oneself, but it’s even harder to overstate the rewards.
Photo via Facebook
Florida mom Susan Schrijver led the push to get the toys removed because she didn’t want her children to be exposed to them and called the decision to sell them alongside other toys “a dangerous deviation from their family friendly values.” She started a petition, which got media coverage and more than 9,000 signatures before Toys “R” Us complied and removed them.
Toys R Us puts Breaking Bad toys on 'indefinite sabbatical.' Word on the street is that they were sent to Belize. Nicely played Florida Mom.— Bryan Cranston (@BryanCranston) October 22, 2014
However, Cranston’s costar Aaron Paul is a lot less willing to make jokes about it. He’s just really mad about the whole thing, and he went on a Twitter rant to prove it. Leaving no target untouched, he first went after another famous doll.
Wait, so @ToysRUs pulled all of the Breaking Bad figures from their shelves and still sells Barbie? Hmmmm...I wonder what is more damaging?— Aaron Paul (@aaronpaul_8) October 23, 2014
He somehow tried to get President Obama involved.
And then he tried to point out that the toys weren’t any worse than the violent video games Toys “R” Us likely sells in its electronics section.
And what about all of the violent video games you sell @ToysRUs ? Do you still sell those? Florida mom really messed it up for everyone.— Aaron Paul (@aaronpaul_8) October 23, 2014
Adam Sandler’s been making the rounds to promote his latest attempt at humor, Men, Women & Children, but last year he told Conan O’Brien a story that was far more entertaining. And it involved a quest to see costar Shaquille O’Neal’s penis on the set of Grown Ups 2.
This is understandable: Who doesn't want a glimpse of Shaq’s heat? But now, Sandler’s story has been animated by Dilara Karabas, in the style of Looney Tunes. It's titled “Adam Sandler & the Fantastic Mystery of Shaq’s Penis,” which is an Adam Sandler movie I would actually watch. Please someone pitch this to Netflix.
Sandler explains he waited for Shaq to get in the shower on set, then lurked around hoping to catch a glimpse. But one does not simply walk in on a hot-and-lathered Shaq shower. His security foils Sandler’s plan, but Shaq has the last laugh: He offers the perfect punchline when Sandler tries to apologize for creeping on his D.
Also: Never forget Murshaq.
H/T Devour | Screengrab via Team Coco/YouTube
Zoe Saldana’s new celebrity-driven webseries My Hero has its heart in the right place—celebrating those people who helped and inspired the stars before they were famous—but it wouldn’t hurt to give these heroes a little more of the limelight.
Saldana’s rise to fame seems tougher than most. Although the Guardians ofthe Galaxy actress recalls an initially idyllic upbringing, filled with music and stories told in rocking chairs on the family’s porch in the Dominican Republic, a car accident at age 9 would rob her of her father. By this stage the family, which included Saldana’s sisters Mariel and Cisely, had little money, and they would find thieves, on that very porch, trying to steal the rocking chairs in broad daylight.
But it says a lot about Saldana’s hero, her mother Asalia, that, despite the stress of many sleepless nights alone, “keep[ing] watch for burglars who were trying to enter the house,” she maintained a loving and structured environment that allowed her daughters to thrive.
It’s lovely seeing Saldana honoring her mother in this way. And, by making us think about those who have sacrificed for us, it feels like this series will indirectly be a big thank-you to all those moms and dads whose kids may not have starred in Avatar but still went above and beyond.
But, in this the first episode, it is Saldana, not her mom who is front and center. We sadly hear very little, comparatively, from Asalia, and a whole lot from her daughter. It is as if—and I hate to say this—Zoe doesn’t want anyone forgetting who the real star is. Indeed she features so prominently that her no doubt heartfelt recognition of her mother as being “the ultimate rockstar… because you showed us your humanity” lacks the intended verisimilitude and instead comes across as somewhat glib and performative.
It’s a misstep in what could otherwise be an interesting series. Let’s hope that future episodes—which, if my eyesight and the brief glimpses in the first episode’s opening can be trusted, will feature Nick Cannon, Julianne Hough, and Maria Menounos—can readdress this imbalance and aim the spotlight in the right direction.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)
The subway musician is ubiquitous in New York City, and it's often a solo endeavor. But what if those standalone musicians across the city were united in an unseen orchestra? Thanks to a pair of ambitious filmmakers and the implementation of Wi-Fi along subway platforms, that’s exactly what happened one afternoon.
Producer Anita Anthonj and director Chris Shimojima found performers willing to work together with the help of a Wi-Fi connection directly to composer Ljova, who led them in a performance of “Signal Strength,” an original piece of work. Ljova worked above ground in Bryant Park, conducting at laptops that connected with individual performers in real time at nine separate subway stops. The resulting piece combines diverse instruments like accordion, theremin, cello, and djembe into a magnificent experiment in art and collaboration.
The next time you’re on a subway platform and see a solo musician, they might just be a part of a much larger musical moment.
Midler has a new girl-group cover album out Nov. 4, titled It’s the Girls, featuring revisions of songs by the Andrews Sisters, the Shirelles, and the Shangri-Las. TLC appears to be the only non-’60s girl group covered here, but if you think about it, “Waterfalls” could easily have been a ‘60s hit.
Midler takes the heartstring-plucking to Beaches levels, and the song gets even heavier when you remember the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes wrote the song’s centerpiece—the rap interlude—while on leave from a rehab center.
If Midler does a follow-up girl-group album, she should definitely cover PTAF’s “Boss Ass Bitch.” I don’t know why it was left off.
Photo via Disney | ABC Television Group/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Craig Benzine, best known as YouTube’s self-duplicating wizard Wheezy Waiter, is trying his hand at short films thanks to New Form Digital's Incubator Series. His short, Fine Tuned, explores whether life and music can be perfectly programmed and crafted—or if spontaneity rules.
Fine Tuned follows Linus, a work-from-home software developer who thinks he’s perfected a program that can tell you if a song is a hit or not. So when he pairs up with his teenage musician neighbor to help him woo a girl with a perfectly crafted song (by technical standards), he’s distraught to know it doesn’t work out. That failure makes him take action in his own, by-the-program life.
Benzine’s film joins other YouTubers like Anna Akana and Yulin Kuang that have also taken advantage of the New Form Digital program. While Benzine often stars in his videos, for the short he takes the director's chair, but does employ a few notable friends, including Hank Green making a voice cameo as the weatherman and Mitchell Davis as Linus’s HR associate, Colton.
Screengrab via WheezyWaiter/YouTube
There are a lot of things that are awful about Los Angeles: the traffic, the sky-high rents, the constant risk of misreading a parking sign and having your car towed. It’s a wonder anyone chooses to move here in the first place. But the next time you’re cursing out another driver who’s just cut you off on the on-ramp, think of Dormtainment’s misadventures and be thankful you’re not the seventh member of their group.
In collaboration with Comedy Central, comedy troupe Dormtainment just released its latest webseries, Six Guys One Car, a three-part series in which everything that can go wrong after a comedy show does.
“We have had the opportunity to work with Comedy Central for about two years now, passing ideas back and forth,” states Dormtainment—made up of members Chaz Miller, Cameron Miller, Amanuel Richards, Jerome "Rome" Green, Mike Anthony, and Daunte “Tay” Dier. “They heard the idea for this webseries and liked it the most and gave us the chance to write and star in it. They have been really easy to work with, great team.”
Dormtainment originally started making comedy videos for YouTube in 2009, and the group has since grown its brand to include live comedy shows, comedy albums, merchandise, and traditional media collaborations. While a collaboration with Comedy Central is a huge accomplishment for the group, it’s a smart move on the network's part as well, tapping into the troupe's already passionate 777,000 subscribers.
While Dormtainment’s characters in the series are obviously embellished, the underlying relationships and camaraderie of the group are very true to life. The six guys share three bedrooms and one car in Los Angeles, it doesn’t get more real than that.
“These are definitely enhanced versions of us all,” laughs the group. “Everybody took some of their personality and bumped it up times a hundred. Except for Chaz, he always has to regular poop.”
And if that doesn’t give you a preview of what’s in store, we're not sure what will. Let the binge-watching begin!
Photo via Dormtainment
Don’t lie. The minute you passed your last high school science exam, you kissed those beakers goodbye, burned your textbook in the nearest trash can, and swore you’d never return. And while I respect the intentions of your 18-year-old self, it’s time to give science another shot, and here’s why: BrainCraft, the craftiest science show on YouTube, is here to answer all your questions about why humans are the way they are.
BrainCraft was started by science educator Vanessa Hill in late 2013. Hill first began working in science education after landing a job with Australia’s National Science Agency. Following the completion of her master’s degree, she started making YouTube videos to mesh together her passions of science and art.
“What I’m trying to do is communicate science in creative ways,” shares Hill. “To just do something different that’s not a talking head and is a little bit crafty. I’m trying to work on it so it has a beautiful aesthetic and people want to watch it. It looks cool, and they learn bits of science along the way.”
While there are hundreds of amazing education channels on YouTube, Hill has made BrainCraft stand out from the pack by presenting her scientific explainers in the form of stop-motion paper animations. The result is a lesson that is both memorable and relatable. In her bimonthly videos, Hill explores psychology, neuroscience, and the way humans act in situations, resulting in videos on everything from technology ruining relationships to the psychology of trolls. With years of classroom experience under her belt, Hill sees the YouTube platform as a major educational tool.
“It’s a platform to reach more people and reach them in a different way when they’re in a different frame of mind,” Hill explains. “I’ve done videos on reading and knitting and sports and exercise, and you do see those niche groups sharing [the videos]. I think that’s a really good way to reach new people who wouldn’t normally watch science content online. That’s a good environment to learn in: when they aren’t expecting it.”
In her first few months on YouTube, Hill’s work was quickly acknowledged by science heavyweights like Emily Graslie and earned her a coveted position signed with PBS Digital Studios. This opportunity has allowed Hill to move to New York City and pursue YouTube full-time. If it were up to her, Hill says she would make all her videos about her dog, memory, and moral dilemmas, but she quickly acknowledges the need for science channels to balance their libraries between fun, shareable content and scientifically dense topics.
“The challenge from a content point of view [is] creating something that makes sense and is coherent in three minutes,” Hill shares. “It’s really hard to strike that balance between what pleases the public and what pleases the professionals. It’s hard to include a lot of science that’s rigorous and entertaining in that time period as well.”
But not everyone's happy. In many of the comment sections on her videos, Hill notes the repetition of people attacking her videos as being opinions instead of fact. The trolls spend so much time trying to discredit each of Hill’s stated points, they forget to click on the resources and links she’s provided in the description. Meanwhile, Hill has to find the right balance of ignoring, responding, and calling out this harassment in her comments. Through it all, she keeps a good attitude, joking that she learned five new words from Urban Dictionary that she’d never heard before reading her comments. As her channel is still incredibly new, Hill acknowledges she has yet to build the loyal audience to help her fend off the trolls.
“There are a lot of other educational channels, but a lot of them—Minute Physics, Minute Earth, Veritasium, Smarter Everyday—they’ve all been around for a couple years, and they have this whole in-group that you’re not a part of because you’re a new creator,” comments Hill. “Sometimes it’s hard finding your audience, that community on YouTube, and then also finding a community of creators that you can kind of fit in with and talk [with] about things.”
True, signing with PBS Digital has presented Hill with an established support system, but even this cannot fully alleviate the challenges of being a new creator—especially a new female creator running a STEM (that is, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) channel on YouTube. Though YouTube has allowed women an unprecedented opportunity to pursue their scientific passions, it has yet to alleviate the sexism and harassment typical in these male-dominated fields. While there are many incredible education channels on YouTube, the female-run channels are less well-known and often discouraged from continued production by hateful comments.
“I think in general, offline and online, it’s really the support of men that will change things,” comments Hill. “I think it's really, really important for women to keep talking about it and to keep talking to men and women about it. But I think the people who need to change, they’re not really going to listen to what women have to say. I think it has to come from men and authority figures in order for people to change their behavior.”
Hill is not letting negative comments deter her from putting out content that she loves making. And when she isn’t spending weeks on end in research mode and finally has a spare moment, this is exactly where you’ll find her.
“When I’m not on the Internet? I’ll take you through step by step because I feel as though this is important,” Hill laughs. “I’d definitely go out for brunch because it’s my favorite meal of the day. I’d probably have a lot of coffee, and I’d take my dog to the beach, and we would have a run around and we would play volleyball and probably have tacos at the end of the day.”
A woman after the world’s heart. Maybe next up should be the science of our love of tacos.
Screengrab via BrainCraft/YouTube
Last we heard from Christina Bianco, female celebrity impressionist extraordinaire, she was covering “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Let It Go” from Frozen as, among other people, Idina Menzel, Demi Lovato, Adele, Celine Dion, and Britney Spears. Now, Bianco is back with her cover of CeeLo’s “Fuck You” (oops, sorry, I mean “Forget You”) at the Hippodrome in London, and she’s got a brand new arsenal of celebrity impressions under her belt.
In the video, Bianco urges the audience to take a shot when she launches into her next impression, before doing a pitch-perfect rendition of, among other artists, Celine Dion, Julie Andrews, Britney Spears, Alanis Morrisette, Kristin Chenoweth, and Gwen Stefani. And if you don’t lose it when she starts impersonating Penelope Cruz at the 2:20 mark, you’re probably not human.
Good luck with this drinking game, you guys. You’re gonna be wasted by the end of it.
Screengrab via Christina Bianco/YouTube