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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    No matter how many covers of “Let It Go” you’ve listened to lately, you haven’t heard anything like this.

    Anyone who’s tried to use Google Translate to help them with a foreign language knows that the service isn’t exactly accurate. Disney has already translated the biggest song to come out of Frozen into at least 25 different languages last month, but when someone takes the DIY translation route, things don’t always turn out as smooth.

    Bouncing off an idea from some of her friends, Malinda Kathleen Reese put “Let It Go,” her latest obsession, through the translation ringer.

    “This is the result when I put the lyrics through Chinese, Macedonian, French, Polish, Creole, and Tamil, among other languages, and then back into English,” Reese explained.

    The end result is jarringly different than the original lyrics, and the song’s theme takes a dramatic turn. For proof, look no further than the newly translated title: “Give Up.”

    For every song it destroys, it creates a new monster in its wake.

    H/T Reddit | Photo via disneyanimation/YouTube


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    Back when 17-year-old international pop sensation Lorde was first making a splash—and I guess she still is, considering how much Pure Heroine continues to dominate my Spotify sidebar—I decided to keep my distaste to myself. If people thought that a teenager rolling her eyes at a life of excess she would soon come to enjoy based on that attitude itself was a game-changer, OK, fine. But “Royals” wasn’t much to listen to till T-Pain came along.

    It’s not just that T-Pain’s cover saturates the stingy production of the sour-grapes original with his trademark Auto-Tune glides. He also flips the song’s message on its head, indulging in the very luxuries held out as illusory or empty—all while turning Lorde into the biggest hater of them all. You mad because T-Pain has diamonds in his chain? “Seems like just yesterday we were drinking Crown Royal (Royal),” he croons, mocking Lorde’s suburban realist hook. “We ain’t really give a fuck / Now they tryin’ to hate on us / And I just party on my bus.” Yes, the best revenge for being accused of living well is…continuing to do so.

    Ouch. What’s worse, the somewhat racially charged rebuke comes on top of a Tumblr unfavorably comparing Lorde’s looks to those of much older black people. Let this be a lesson to any other New Zealand kid with the bright idea of impugning the flashier aspects of hip-hop culture in a Top 40 track: Nobody can hear you over all that Cristal being popped.

    Photo by Will Folsom/Flickr


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    Amazon has spent the last couple years trying to make their original programming a destination. Last spring, they released eight sitcoms, all high on satire (Alpha House, Betas) and used viewer feedback to evaluate which shows would make it off the runway. There were some good ideas in the pilot offerings, but none of them saw a huge upswing in popularity.

    Last week, Amazon debuted pilots for five new shows—including two new dramas—and once again viewer reviews and ratings will help decide which shows should get the green light and which get the boot. Those that get green-lit will go on to be Amazon Prime Instant exclusives. With this lot, Amazon seems to have picked up on Netflix’s scent: To be successful, create a show like House of Cards or Orange Is the New Black—one that seems like it could be on a channel like HBO. This year, they’ve found that in Jill Soloway’s Transparent, a show about a father coming out as transgender to his family. 

    Of course, Netflix was the model for original digital programming in 2013: House of Cards’ highly anticipated second season draws the curtains on Friday, and this summer, shooting begins on the next Netflix original: Sense8, a new sci-fi thriller from Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix) and Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski. HBO is currently experiencing a revival with True Detective, a show that’s attempting to bridge the episodic TV narrative and the cinematic panorama of filmmaking.

    You can currently watch the pilot episodes for free if you have Amazon Prime, or as part of a 30-day free trial. Here’s a rundown of which shows we think will survive the runway, and which ones seem to have a hard time walking.

    Bosch

    Amazon is joining in on a trend: Cops chasing (and being haunted by) serial killers. True Detective, The Following, and The Fall all center around this storyline, with varying degrees of success, and Titus Welliver gives LAPD detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch the appropriate moral weight for a man named after a Renaissance painter. The storyline here hinges on a twist: He’s also on trial for shooting a suspected murderer and rapist.

    Verdict: While this seems an odd fit for Amazon, it could see some success on a cable channel like FX.

    The After

    The X-Files creator Chris Carter’s new drama also creeps along like a network show, centering around a group of strangers forced together after an unspecified epidemic, mirroring the narrative of The Walking Dead. At an hour long, the pacing was a bit uneven. The ending is pure X-Files callback, however.

    Verdict: This could follow up The Walking Dead on AMC.

    Mozart in the Jungle

    A behind-the-scenes look at the NYC classical music scene, Mozart in the Jungle attempts to make the struggles of millennial musicians relatable and edgy. The pilot was written by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Alex Timbers, so there’s some comedic muscle in the storyline, but not much else. There’s little narrative thread between scenes, and no character in which to feel invested or empathetic.

    Verdict: Das boot.

    The Rebels

    After a woman’s husband dies and leaves her a football team (The Rebels), she struggles to keep a group of rowdy athletes in line. And oh, the misogyny she sees! This premise isn’t very novel, but Natalie Zea does have more presence here than she does in The Following. A coked-up monkey with a gun was the highlight of the pilot.

    Verdict: There could be some promise if the characters are fleshed out a bit, but this also feels more like an FX show.

    Transparent

    The new show from writer/director Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under, United States of Tara) focuses once again on a troubled family—this time a father (Jeffrey Tambor), mother (Judith Light), and three adult siblings (Gaby Hoffman, Jay Duplass, and Amy Landecker). Set under the hazy orange skies of Los Angeles, Transparent’s pilot picks at the issues just below the surface: body image, gender identity, sexual desire. Tambor coming out to his family as transgender will prove a major plot point, but the siblings’ rapport and neuroses set in motion their own intricate storylines, which could easily sustain a whole season. In addition to the family, Los Angeles is the secondary character here, and Soloway makes sure to highlight all its sloping driveways, winding conversations, and wide angles.

    Verdict: Green light, all the way. Of all the pilots, this show is on par with Netflix and HBO’s original content.

    Screengrab via Amazon.com


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    We haven’t heard much from Billy Ray Cyrus lately, and no one’s really been complaining about that. He’s been mostly absent from the public and virtual spectacle his daughter Miley has managed to sustain for the last couple years, save for his words of encouragement after her VMA performance last summer.

    But yesterday, he finally broke his silence, and gave the world “Achy Breaky 2.”

    Yes, it’s a followup to his 1992 hit “Achy Breaky Heart,” which lives on in half-full karaoke rooms across the world. But this version features rapper Buck 22, who seems to have little Internet presence beyond the “Achy Breaky” remake-y, though he is the son of Dionne Warwick and Bill Elliott.

    According to the lyrics, he’s been “next to BRC on TMZ, got everybody wondering who I am.” It’s true, the process of celebrity osmosis via TMZ has been well-documented absolutely nowhere.

    This video has everything: a UFO abduction in Kentucky, sexy aliens twerking and smoking e-cigarettes, a “Wrecking Ball” reference, and for some reason, Larry King, who warned us all what was coming back in December.

    In terms of questionable hip-hop and country pairings, this fares much better than LL Cool J and Brad Paisley’s “Accidental Racist,” but as misguided as that song was, it started a discussion. What is BRC attempting to convey here?

    Nothing of real cultural significance, of course. It’s another in a long line of wouldn’t-it-be-funny-if jokes that become reality and urge us to click on them to see for ourselves. It’s a callback to his hit, which now references his daughter’s hit, via a remake of a song and a video full of empty cultural signifiers. Cyrus is a pop-culture ouroboros.

    Screengrab via Buck22VEVO/YouTube


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    The Fox Problem harnesses the “magical power of Vines and InstaVideos mixed with Twitter, FaceyB and Instagram.” It was the first show that could be watched embedded in a tweet. Its initial series was Google+ Hangouts’ first live program. The current, second season is streamed live on YouTube.

    As you might guess, this is the creation of a social media consultancy. You can imagine them sitting in meetings with middle-aged executives of would-be sponsors, bamboozling them with marketing gibberish and incalculable projections of “reach”, “tweets by key influencers” and “total impression span.” It is an approach that worked; The Fox Problem is “powered by HP.”

    There is nothing wrong with any of this, of course. All shows run on money, not air, and the Internet is crying out for independently produced live broadcasts. But The Fox Problem is so concentrated around its social media presence and so beholden to contrived product placements that the presentation itself is a limp afterthought and almost unwatchable. It’s a shell, a delivery system of nothing.

    It purports to be an entertainment program, but there is so little of it here; a performance by Nina Nesbitt is now missing from the catch-up stream, and the house band’s quality and Internet presence suggests that it’s related to someone involved.

    In fact, it is all a bit of a love-in. One of the guests is introduced as a “set-designer and my friend,” and the show opens with an apology for the absence of one of the presenters as they are “smashing it in New York…taking Alexa Chung’s job.” Ignoring the fact that this seems to suggest that the HP products the presenters carry everywhere are incapable of cross-Atlantic communication, do you really want to highlight the fact there are better things going on elsewhere?

    This raises the major issue with The Fox Problem. It is program that is transmitted from an area of East London synonymous with hipsterish types, and everything about it, from its style to its guests reflects this. But the HP sponsorship was no-doubt based on promises of the potential wide reach of this program, and the large scope of its social media assault is useless if the show itself is irrelevant to anyone outside of East London, let alone the U.K.

    Are there many, for example, outside of the Facebook friends of the presenters who would appreciate the humor of Made in Chelsea’s Ollie Locke displaying pictures produced from an HP printer? How about an interview with some guy that runs a Twitter appreciation account for a Hackney pub? If you are puzzled by the relevance of these things, you will appreciate the problem.

    To a point sloppy preparation and haphazard production can appear endearing rather than lazy in this type of program, but this isn’t Wayne and Garth. And it isn’t Aurora, Illinois. These are experienced, professional presenters in London backed by actual money and supposed thought. If they wonder why the bulk of their retweets are by their friends and HP, then they may begin to understand what is wrong with The Fox Problem.

    Screengrab via YouTube


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    Shakira’s hips don’t lie, but her music certainly can.

    The Latin artist smoked and cozied up with Rihanna in her latest music video for “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” and things get steamy pretty quickly. There are plenty of the dance moves they’ve both become famous for, and soon enough they’re both in bed together.

    Even with the criticism pouring in, the one thing that makes it all work is the music itself. But how does it hold up once you take that away?

    CollegeHumor did something similar with Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop,” and the end result is just as awkward and disconcerting. You’re left with all the squeaks, creaks, and even the creeps that come with an older house, and no matter how much they try, Shakira and Rihanna’s dancing against a door just doesn’t have the same effect.

    And suddenly it doesn't look that much fun anymore.

    H/T Digg | Photo via Mario Wienerroither/YouTube


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    Just when we thought the Flappy Bird phenomenon couldn’t get any more ridiculous—what with the game’s creator pulling the app, and doge and multiplayer versions now available—pop-punk stalwarts Fall Out Boy announce their own twist on the suddenly classic format.

    The aptly titled “Fall Out Bird” is still awaiting approval from the Google Play and App Store, but soon enough you should be able to pilot the winged, disembodied, pixelated heads of Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Joe Trohman, and Andy Hurley through a side-scrolling city, avoiding treacherous obstacles along the way. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but this game was,” reads a post on the band’s website. “Shoutout to the OG Flappy Bird, RIP.”

    Don’t go thinking that Fall Out Boy are novices when it comes to parody video games, either: The Oregon Trail-spoofing Fall Out Boy Trail, in which the player must help the guys survive a grueling tour schedule, is nothing short of a fully realized virtual world. But judging by the 20,000 Tumblr notes the reveal of Fall Out Bird generated, we’re guessing it’ll be an even bigger hit than “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race.”

    Come to think of it, that title may sum up the whole Flappy Bird situation.  

    Photo via falloutboy.com   


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    Movies are wonderful, visual stories that take us to another place and time. But you already know that—what you might not know is how well movie titles alone can tell a story.

    Case and point, POYKPAC Productions’ video, "Movie Title Breakup," which documents a married couple's bitter argument—and break up—in a restaurant. While the plot is pedestrian, the execution is unique: every character in the skit speaks in lines that are actual movie titles. The main characters manage to have an entire conversation and even interact with their waitress using nothing but the names of films.

    The video manages to work in a variety of movies, including Eat Drink Man Woman, Clueless and even the straight-to-DVD title Still Waiting.

    The producersdon't say a wordaboutthe futureMr. and Mrs. Smith. Chances are, they liveseparate lives.

    H/T Digg / Screengrab via POYKPAC Comedy/YouTube


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    Nora Lum, a.k.a. NYC rapper Awkwafina, reached our collective Internet consciousness in 2012 with “My Vag,” a compare/contrast boast anthem with lines like, “My vag feels like winning the lottery/Your vag got turned down from eHarmony.” She followed that up with the equally epic “Queef” in 2013, a song that compared a somewhat taboo bodily function to a magic power.

    Both of these songs are featured on her new album, Yellow Ranger, which was released Tuesday on iTunes and Spotify. In the years between “My Vag” and the release of Yellow Ranger, Lum says it’s been “incredibly weird going from a corporate job to the so-called rap game.”

    “The Internet response to [‘My Vag’] was huge,” she adds, “far larger than I could ever dream, and I have feminist-leaning websites to thank for that.”

     

     

    Does Lum feel like there’s room in rap for more songs about topics that tend to make people uncomfortable?

    “I do feel that there is a lack of the low-brow, vagicentric topics like queefing or even the repetition of the word ‘vagina’ in music,” she says, “and especially in hip-hop. However, I tend to tell people that my intentions were (and are) less political than they seem. I think it's important for people to understand that as a woman, I can only rap about the parts I have. When Mickey Avalon wrote about his parts in ‘My Dick,’ I only had the option of rapping about ‘My Vag.'”

    We asked Lum to take us through Yellow Ranger track by track, and lucky for us, she obliged. 

    Intro III

    [The whole idea of] Awkwafina was more or less birthed in skits like this. Back in high school, I used to chop up C-Span soundbites or interviews with politicians like John Kerry or Bill Clinton into a radio-esque show hosted by Awkwafina and her producer, Mookie. I would pitch down my vocals to have male guests, and would send them to a small circle of friends after they were done.

    Yellow Ranger

    "Yellow Ranger" was probably the third track I produced and recorded after “My Vag” and “NYC Bitche$.” It was only a minute long, and was meant to be in the style of a freestyle. There are a lot of hidden metaphors in there, pertaining to my "fuck you" of the corporate world as well as adjusting into my life in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

    Queef

    So basically, I got really stoned one night and had this amazing vision of this parallel universe X-Men where someone was endowed with vaginal air powers that could inevitably save the world. However, the dream wasn't incredibly fluid in that I never got to the part about how she actually saves the world. (Maybe blasting away the robot zombies.) Instead, it turned into a kind of more disgusting saga of “My Vag.”

    NYC Bitche$

    I loved making this song because it was basically a compact, musical tirade of the rants I would go on anyway in everyday life. I have lived in this city my whole life and have seen the way gentrification has changed it. I'm not necessarily against transplants, as 75 percent of my good friends, roommate, and boyfriend are not native New Yorkers. I think at the end of the day, it represents solidarity amongst other native New Yorkers, or those who have been living here long enough to understand the context of the lyrics.

    Janet Reno Mad

    This one is probably the most un-comedic song of the album and represents more or less my stoned thoughts in everyday life. I wouldn't want to call it a memoriam of my journey thus far, even though it kind of is. If you listen closely, it's pretty much a state of the union for my life as a lost twenty-something.

    Mayor Bloomberg (Giant Margarita)

    This song is kind of self-explanatory. I legitimately wanted to know if Mayor Bloomberg was going to ban large margaritas that I cry over while on a date alone at Dallas BBQ, as a part of his controversial soda ban. I called 311, though, and they confirmed that alcoholic beverages don't fall under the restrictions.

     

     

    Fresh Water Salmon

    This is one of the last songs I recorded for the album, produced by a good friend of mine by the name of Drigs. It was one of the only instances on the record where I had a beat that I wanted to get on badly, but no clear concept of what the song was going to be about. I wrote the song as I recorded it, and it actually turned out to be one of my favorites on the album.

    Marijuana

    I wrote [this] a couple of months after I dropped “My Vag,” and felt reluctant about releasing it given its lyrical content. I think it was kind of my “Started From the Bottom” ode, where I come clean about my regrets (and pride) in what I'm doing despite what my mother and father would've liked to see me doing at my age. My mom passed away when I was 4-years-old, and she came from a very conservative Korean background. I feel like my life would've been incredibly different had she still been alive.

    Flu Shot

    I wrote this song when I was 18, before I wrote “My Vag.” The original was a terribly recorded GarageBand track that I knew while writing was the stupidest thing ever. I sent it to my best friends and they seemed to enjoy it, however.

    Come Stop Me (Feat. Dumbfoundead)

    DFD is my hero in many ways and a good friend of mine. He lived in my house non-sexually for a month, and we told each other that before he left we would get on a track. We literally recorded this in my bedroom two hours before his flight back to L.A.

    My Vag (Vag Redux Edition)

    The original recording of “My Vag” was done solely on GarageBand and way before I knew anything about mixing audio. I wrote it back when I was 19 as a response so-to-speak to Mickey Avalon's “My Dick,” which was popping at the time. Since this is the song I will probably always be associated with, I wanted to add a cleaner version of it to the album. So basically, a well-trimmed, cleaner version of “My Vag.”

    Screengrab via Awkwafina/YouTube


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    The new Robocop reboot isn’t receiving great reviews, but never fear: There are other options.

    The crowdsourced Our Robocop Remake is a scene-by-scene copy of the original 1987 movie, with each scene being filmed by a different crew; all told, 50 filmmakers from Los Angeles and New York were involved. But this project differs from fan remakes like the famous Indiana Jones adaptation in that it’s not actually aiming for true accuracy.

    Each film crew was told to remake their particular scene to fit into the overall Robocop narrative, but other than that, they had full creative control. Which is why the end result is a feature-length movie that includes an entire scene acted out by toddlers, a dance sequence, multiple types of animation, and a mini-documentary on deconstructionism. It’s also pretty NSFW, thanks to a scene that involves a whole lot of exploding penises.

    This isn’t the first project by this production team. In 2009 and 2010, Our Robocop Remake producer David Seger masterminded another crowdsourced remake, this time for classic ’80s teen movie Footloose. Many of the participants came back for Robocop, meaning they already had some experience with the weird but fascinating genre of scene-by-scene collaborative filmmaking.

    While a few of the Robocop remake sequences inevitably fall flat, the quick changeovers between filmmaking styles make it well worth viewing all the way through. And it’s almost certainly more of a conversation-starter than the “real” remake that’s showing in theatres right now. 

    Screencap via Vimeo


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    It sounded like a intriguing assignment from the start: stand in line to see the wacky Shia LaBeouf exhibit everyone's talking about? And then write about it? For my job? For which I receive money? More than willing to oblige. And that's how found myself in a seemingly endless line of unabashed onlookers, waiting for six hours to see #IAMSORRY and the perverse and strange man behind it. 
     

    OUTSIDE

    While the inside of Shia’s piece promised to be an intimate, upsetting one-on-one encounter, the outside of the exhibit was a far more lighthearted freak show, a meeting of the minds for maniacs willing to stand in front of a celebrity’s indulgent art project for an entire hot LA day.

    If you would’ve asked me six hours previously why I’d be upset after seeing Labeouf, I would’ve guessed I’d be cranky about waiting in line, or angered by his freshman-year art school antics. And wait I did: after an hour creeped by, I decided I’d gone too far and I should stick it out. The sunk cost was too devastating to abandon the whole enterprise. Then another hour passed. And another. I considered abandoning my position about once every 10 minutes (the Mexican restaurant across the street became my personal Gatsbyish green light, beckoning me to an unreachable utopia of guacamole), but as my mom will tell you, I got all the obstinate genes, and also I am being paid to write an article about this, so I stayed in line all six hours.

    By the time I went in, my feet were swollen and I’d joined an alliance of line friends. We swapped life stories and got weird neck sunburns as the security guards refused to let us stand on the shady part of the sidewalk. There was Cougar, who’d just moved here from Austin to pursue comedy, who wanted to give Shia a sketch he drew on a napkin. Johnnie, a tap dancer with soft eyes who bought me coffee. He wanted to use the Shia room as a confessional. The young, willowy couple in front of us didn’t chat much to anyone but each other, using the hullabaloo as an accessory to their fresh romance. Everyone around me was friendly, although a puppy-eager set of friends a few groups back kept talking loudly about how much they hated Shia, with one of the guys speaking about whipping the actor with a crazy glint in his eyes that made me wonder if I was in line with psychopaths waiting to see a sociopath. But that guy also gave me a cupcake so, you know, we contain multitudes.

    The line kept growing. News crews showed up and anchors with big white teeth started interviewing the people waiting. Down the street, two gangly guys started putting a sign on the storefront next to the gallery: #IAMSORRYTOO.


    It was a Funny or Die sketch with Jerry O’Connell. Lots of people in line switched from chatting about Shia’s intentions to talking about “Sliders.” The Funny or Die team convinced a group to switch lines. People started debating whether it was worth it:

    “Jerry O’Connell was in Tomcats!”

    “Yeah, but Jerry O’Connell’s not relevant.

    Jeremy Piven drove by in his car. My feet kept hurting. I thought about all the other articles I could be writing, articles not about Shia LaBeouf. I tried to convince the furniture store next to the gallery to give me their Wi-Fi password. I asked their employees for a comment. They declined on both accounts. Jerry O’Connell eventually ran by with a bag over his head once he was finished filming his spoof. I wondered if the people in the Buzzfeed office, directly across the street, were writing The 10 Weirdest People We Saw In Line At The Shia LaBeouf Show. I wished I was writing The 10 Weirdest People We Saw In Line At the Shia LaBeouf Show because then I’d be done a lot quicker.

    The line was a very LA kook parade that highlighted how silly celebrity culture is, but it wasn’t upsetting to be in it. I wasn’t disturbed by the people were waiting in line; it seemed like a fairly benign way to waste a day.

    As the day started to turn into evening and my patience wore thinner, all I really wanted to do was get in and get this thing over with. 

    But then I went inside.

     

    INSIDE

    When I was 15 I plagiarized a phrase in a letter I wrote to a friend. The letter had its intended impact; my friend said she felt moved to tears. Whenever I think about it I get a tiny dirty feeling, like a raisin made of lead is embedded in the bottom of my stomach.

    I felt the same deep-belly sick getting ushered out the door after seeing the tears of newly notorious plagiarist, Shia Labeouf.

    #IAMSORRY, Labeouf’s performance art exhibit going on this week at the Cohen Gallery in Hollywood, is easy to feel cynical about. On paper, there is little that distinguishes it from the rest of LaBeouf’s erratic Franco-on-crappy-acid hijinks, the ones that he’s supposed to be apologizing for—like his other stunts, this one appropriates another artist’s work: in this case, LaBeouf’s decision to sit and stare at whoever entered the gallery was cribbed from Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist is Present.”

    It’s hard not to see that hashtag in front of the apology as a modifier indicating a strong wash of insincerity, or even contempt.

    His now-infamous “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” bag worn at the Berlin Film Festival made me feel uneasy, but that was something I read online; it happened far away. I passed it off as a wannabe-Joaquin Phoenix moment from some pretentious child actor who skimmed an article on neo-Dadaism.

    He’s been courting the cynicism he’s been receiving all along, and the idea that LaBeouf would put on an art show that had people choose an “implement” from a table of artifacts representing aspects of his life (a Transformers toy, a bottle of Jack Daniels, an Indiana Jones whip, a bowl of mean tweets about him, a vase of flowers) and confront the actor as he sat with the bag over his head seemed so cockamamie and indulgent that I expected to go in there and roll my eyes.

    Instead, I got in there, took the bag off his head, put it back on, APOLOGIZED TO SHIA, and left. He blinked at me when I asked if I could remove the bag. He didn’t smile or frown. I was the second-to-last person to enter that day, and my rush-flustered stammering didn’t elicit any unusual responses from the actor. He just sat there with red puffy eyes, hands laid neatly on the small table, tuxedo looking fresh, face looking tired. And it filled me with remorse. I felt like I violated him, and even if he asked for it, I still did it.

    I underestimated LaBeouf. Even if his tears and stare were insincere, even if this is some Exit Through the Gift Shop-level media trolling, #IAMSORRY had me questioning both reality and morality, which, I suppose, makes it a rollicking success as art. When I removed that bag, I felt like I was further dehumanizing someone whose humanity I’d discounted, partially due to his recent stunts, largely because he was the kid from Even Stevens.


    The whole thing may be deeply ingenuine, but it was genuinely disturbing: sitting across from LaBeouf, whose head-bag is ragged and tear-stained, I found it impossible not to have empathy, to feel ashamed of myself for participating in a public emotional flogging (nevermind that it was orchestrated by the punished, nevermind that it may be even less sincere than Dumb Starbucks).

    I still have no idea why LaBeouf and his collaborators are putting this on. I don’t know whether it’s an “eff you” to the media, whether it’s a sincere attempt at an alternative apology tour, or whether it’s something else entirely. Maybe Shia will explain it someday and maybe he won’t. I’m not even sure it matters what the intention was. The encounter he set up was effective; it knocked participants off-kilter; most of the people I talked to afterwards who went in were thrown off and taken aback by the experience, far more affected than they expected they’d be.

    After sitting across from the teary-eyed prankster-cipher, I got up and left and walked past the crowd again with new eyes. We weren’t a frivolous but ultimately harmless group anymore. We were torturers, waiting patiently to emotionally poke a troubled man. We were the crowds cheering the bear on in a Roman amphitheater. We were fucking monsters.

    And whether Shia LaBeouf is sorry or not, I am. 


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    It’s hard to find a Valentine’s Day card in the drug store that’s not a completely cheesy mess with flowers and something treacly in cursive printed across the top. But what if you and your loved one are less about flowers and teddy bears and more about eating a lot of pizza and watching Netflix?

    Luckily, independent artists are creating clever cards that won’t make you want to throw up a little in your mouth, cards that use pop culture instead of worn-out platitudes, Valentines that acknowledge love or friendship between the giver and recipient and also seem to say “I love you, and we both share the greatest love of all: television and movies.”

    So what inspires these pop culture Valentine creators to make such atypical lovenotes?  

    Chris Bishop, who created a series of Game of Thrones cards, thought the fantasy series was good source material. “The main reason I paired Game of Thrones and Valentine's Day was because the show focuses on relationships, sex, and secrets. It's such a natural fit,” he told us in an email.

    Bishop, an illustrator, is planning to make more GoT cards, though he’s wary of creating cards with spoilers. Bishop’s show of choice is set in a world without computers, but he uses technology to craft the colorful cards: “I use Adobe Illustrator and a mouse to draw,” he explained. “I love perfect lines and drawing with shapes so Illustrator is my jam.”

    Tyler Feder, an illustrator who makes remarkable pop-culture themed drawings (including the occasional Valentine’s Day cards) has a different approach to source material than Bishop: she likes to choose programs that aren’t necessarily what she considers a perfect fit. Instead of a dashing romantic hero, for instance, she features beta males like New Girl’s Nick Miller.

    “I really like the idea of making Valentines that reference shows that aren't 100 percent romantic all the time,” she says.  “It's more fun to take the idea of Nick Miller hating everything and try to make it romantic than to just use, like, The Notebook or something.”


    Brandon Bird, another illustrator with an awesome collection of Law and Order: SVU-themed Valentines (I know) likes the dissonance of having a show about dark, messed up stuff as a theme for a sickly-sweet holiday. “For me it's about finding just the right combo of subject + medium. ‘Drama about rapes and murders’ seemed like the perfect fit for ‘cheesy children's cards about love.’ The joke is that they're something that should never, ever exist,” he told us via email.

    Bird will actually send his cards by mail, which are glorious renditions of Benson, Stabler, and the rest of the SVU crew being romantical, so you can get a physical copy delivered to your rape-mystery lovin’ sweetheart the old-fashioned way.


    So if you’re stuck on what to get your partner this holiday and you don’t want to buy one of the lame cards in Walgreens but you also know that if you do nothing to acknowledge the holiday you will be sexually and emotionally penalized, try a pop culture-themed card: they’re cute without being schmaltzy. Plus if you get a card related to a show you watch together, you get extra points for being thoughtful.

    Photo via Brandon Bird


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    Valentine’s Day is upon us, and with it the long-awaited return of David Fincher’s acclaimed Netflix webseries House of Cards. Since much of the U.S. continues to be snowed in, it might be tempting to hole up with your honey on the big day and snuggle up with everyone’s favorite Machiavellian power couple, brilliantly portrayed by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

    Here’s how fellow Daily Dot reporter Fernando Alfonso summed up his anticipation for season 2: “If I were a lesser man, I’d literally watch it all straight starting at midnight, pretend i never saw it, and rewatch it with my lady. But I’m not a monster.” But that’s how it always starts, Fern. That’s how it always starts.

    Still, not everyone might be in the mood to mix dangerous games of politics with his roses and chocolates. For those of you who aren’t looking for healthy relationship lessons from Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth, here are 10 things you could do instead of binge-watching House of Cards:

    1) Watch the original U.K. miniseries instead.

    There’s a reason the Brits, kings of the miniseries, think House of Cards is one of the best miniseries ever created. Featuring a pinprick-sharp script by BBC miniseries master Andrew Davies and an unforgettable performance by Ian Richardson as Francis Urqhart, you’ll never hear the words “You might think that; I couldn’t possibly comment,” the same way again. Oh, and it’s also available on Netflix.

    You’ll have to look elsewhere for its two equally gripping sequels, however: To Play the King and The Final Cut. Or you could...

    2) Read the books both series are based on.

    Though the U.S. House of Cards Americanizes the politics of its U.K. predecessor, the original remains most faithful to the trio of novels written by British politician Michael Dobbs in the ’90s. As Deputy Chairman of the British Conservatives during the government of John Major, Dobbs was no stranger to cutthroat politics; in fact, the Guardian once called him a “hit man.” Who better to tell you a Shakespearean tale of politics, greed, and hubris in Parliament than a man who lived it?

    3) Let Kevin Spacey romance you as nature intended—with his voice.

    And we don’t mean letting him seduce you through the fourth wall on TV. If you’ve never heard Spacey sing, prepare to swoon:

    4) Relive that time Robin Wright was PrincessButtercup.

    It’s not like we’ve forgotten about Princess Bride. It’s probably the only movie in recent cultural memory more quotable than Mean Girls. So why would you want to watch Robin Wright play a manipulative political power-grabber for Valentine’s Day when you could watch her play one half of the most romantic duo of all time? Besides, we all know that the real Rodents of Unusual Size are U.S. politicians.

    Photo via jseattle/Flickr; CC BY-SA 2.0

    5) For that matter, she sings, too:

    Not to imply that this was the best part of Beowulf, but, OK, this was totally the best part of Beowulf:

    6) Watch any of the other zillion times Spacey played a sociopath.

    Se7en, Swimming with Sharks, (SPOILER) The Usual Suspects, Looking for Richard, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evilyou name it. Just pick a film, any film—you’re bound to find a nuanced, chilling performance from Spacey that will leave you shivering weeks later. Just make sure it’s not K-Pax. Everyone makes mistakes.

    7) Get your sweetheart to re-enact that Mena Suvari bathtub scene from American Beauty.

    It’s Valentine’s Day, so you already have the roses.

    8) Go outside and shovel the sidewalk.

    Let’s face it. You know it needs it. If you let it wait till the morning, it’s just going to be crusty and frozen, and it’ll probably have another layer of snow on top of it. But if you do it now, you get to claim early Valentine brownie points from your sweetheart. You know what tastes good with brownies? Kisses of gratitude.

    9) Play any one of a dozen new Flappy Bird imitations.

    Try to race your partner to the end. Wind up repeatedly banging into the first tube until you’re sitting on the ground in tears. Cry together over boxed wine. Renew your vows.

    Flap it forward.

    GIF by Aja Romano

    10) Just watch this video 20,000 times.

    Disclosure: The author of this article was once an active member of the Kevin Spacey fandom; she once asked him to sing a duet with her; he said he'd keep it in mind. Kevin! Call me! 

    Photo by Pinguino/Flickr (CC-BY 2.0)


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    If there’s one thing you can predict about men’s figure skating, it’s that it will be completely unpredictable. 

    In our guide to figure skating fandom, we already discussed this sport’s penchant for drama, and how the men’s competition is likely to be the most dramatic of all this year. And oh boy, did it already deliver. Three of the world’s top skaters have already been beset by catastrophe, and there’s still a whole day of competition left to go. 

    Evgeni Plushenko, Russia

    In one of the most shocking events at the Sochi Olympics so far, Russian megastar Evgeni Plushenko withdrew from the competition just seconds before he was scheduled to skate.

    Plushenko’s path to a fourth Olympic medal had already been fraught with setbacks, after he was defeated by 18-year-old Maxim Kovtun at the Russian National Championships this year. With only one spot on Russia’s team for a male singles skater, Plushenko asked to skate privately in front of Russian Olympic officials, in the hopes of proving himself to be Kovtun’s superior once again. 

    But regardless of what went on behind closed doors, a barely-known teenager could never measure up to Plushenko’s cred as a Russian celebrity and three-time Olympic medalist. Kovtun stayed home and Plushenko went on to help Russia win gold in the team skating event last weekend, but rumors immediately began to spread about him possibly withdrawing from the singles competition. The fact that he showed up at all was enough to make headlines, but not long after he took to the ice, he was seen on camera to fumble a practise jump during warm-ups. This immediately had fans on edge, because he was known to have injured his back the day before.  

     

    Photo via papaplush/Tumblr

    Visibly in pain, he skated around the rink a few times until his name was called to compete. Then, just a few seconds before his music was due to begin, he skated over to the judges and pulled out of the competition, causing Sochi’s Iceberg Stadium to fall silent. Many of the Russian spectators, who were only there to see him skate, simply walked out of the arena. 

    In an interview afterwards, Plushenko told NBC, "I am normal people like you, I am not robot,” a reference to the many jokes figure skating fans have made, comparing him to the Six Million Dollar Man or Terminator. Plushenko has been through twelve separate back surgeries over the course of his career, the most recent of which included inserting metal screws into his spine. It’s no real surprise that following his withdrawal from the competition, Plushenko then announced his official retirement.

    Jeremy Abbott, USA

    The big shock for American audiences was a disastrous fall by US national champion Jeremy Abbott, who was previously a strong contender for a bronze medal. Skaters fall over so often during competition that it’s sometimes easy to forget how painful it is to hit the ice, but unlike every other skater who fell during the men’s short program, Abbott didn’t pick himself up at once. Instead, after making a brutal fall that ended with him slamming against the walls of the rink, he lay motionless on the ice for several agonizing seconds. 

    GIF by rippedonmytoepick/Tumblr

    This is Abbott’s last season as a competitive skater, but after winning gold at US Nationals, fans were beginning to hope that he might have a chance at Sochi. Unfortunately, Abbott has a habit of succumbing to nerves during the Olympics, and his subpar performance at last week’s team event looked like a bad sign. In the hopes of keeping his head in the game, Abbott actually moved out of the Olympic Village and into a hotel, where he has been Skyping daily with his sports psychologist in the hopes that he could avoid another fatal mistake. 

    To everyone’s amazement, Abbott went on to skate well for the rest of his program today, but that fall cost him a lot of points. Barring an act of God, Team USA has now lost any chance of getting on the podium for men’s figure skating, but judging by the audience reaction, most people were just glad Abbott made it out alive. 

    Daisuke Takahashi, Japan

    Olympic veteran Daisuke Takahashi has become embroiled in a pretty weird scandal over the past couple of weeks, thanks to his choice of music for the short program competition. He picked a Sonatina by Mamoru Samuragochi, a famous Japanese composer who is often compared to Beethoven thanks to his early-onset deafness. It should have been a controversy-free choice, but in the week leading up to the Olympics, Samuragochi was revealed to be a fraud.

    It turns out that over the course of a twenty-year career, Samuragochi had hired a ghostwriter to compose most of his music, and even faked his own deafness to inspire comparisons to Beethoven. The news broke too soon before the Olympics for Takahashi to change his music, and in a sport as superstitious as figure skating, many fans were concerned that this would affect Takahashi’s performance. Fortunately, his performance was good enough to still leave him with a chance at the bronze, depending on how well he scores on Friday.

    Photo via ohtheseskaters / Tumblr

    As it stands, Japanese teenager Yuzuru Hanyu and Canadian powerhouse Patrick Chan will be vying for the gold during the final half of the competition. But although Hanyu just broke Chan’s world record score in the short program, he still somehow feels like the underdog. While waiting for his scores Hanyu hugged a Winnie the Pooh bear, grinning adorably and freaking out when he found out he was in the lead. It probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that he, along with crowd-pleasing American teen Jason Brown, are the two skaters that the sport’s Tumblr fandom have fallen in love with this season.

    Chan, on the other hand, is responding to his second-place finish by going on the offensive, already doing interviews where he describes his upcoming long program as an “arsenal” of points-scoring moves. Dogged by accusations of “Chanflation” (judges unfairly inflating his scores), he isn’t hugely popular outside of Canada, and in this competition he’d do well to tone down his usual habit of trash-talking his opponents in the press. This was OK when he was up against terrifying Russian cyborg Evgeni Plushenko, but it seems less funny when his main rival is an adorable 19-year-old who hugged a teddy bear for comfort while waiting for his scores.

    With Plushenko out of the competition, the bronze medal podium is wide open for Friday’s free skate. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope that Jeremy Abbott doesn’t freak out again, and as always, to expect the unexpected. 

    Photo via hist8ry/Tumblr


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    “If you can conquer America, you can conquer the world.”

    Patrice Wilson tells me this by phone in early December. He’s just getting back from Europe,  where he was scouting new talent and figuring out how to bring what he does overseas.

    What he does is produce music videos featuring young girls singing instantly meme-able, ready-to-go-viral pop songs. Since helming releases from Rebecca BlackNicole Westbrook, and Alison Gold, he’s been called a troll, a creep, and a puppetmaster. He brushes off those associations.  

    “Shush Up,” the third video from Gold and followup to 2013’s “ABCDEFG,” was just released. Within the first minute, the 11-year-old robs a jewelry store, gets arrested, and is strapped into an electric chair. She later struts around a gold-plated jail cell in hotpants, then confers with Wilson, who’s in handcuffs, behind a plate of glass.

    Like all his videos, there’s no cohesive narrative, just a stream of confusing imagery over inane lyrics. Some of the video’s more lucid comments question the age-appropriateness of Gold’s image. Elsewhere, the word “slut” is thrown out a troubling number of times. (The video has been pulled from YouTube. It's not clear at this time why, though mirror copies can be found around the Web.)

    Back in December, Wilson explained that people would definitely have a reaction to Gold’s latest video. It’s become his business model to make sure people do:

    “If my haters had a problem with ‘ABCDEFG,’ they’ll really have an issue with this new video.”

    Wilson’s father is Nigerian, and his mother’s Irish, so he grew up traveling between Africa and Europe. After moving to the States to attend Bible college in 1999, Wilson tried to promote his own music career but then switched his focus to producing. He eventually paired up with Australian producer Clarence Jey to form ARK Music Factory in 2010, with the idea that they could shape American pop stars through a song and music video package and then bring them to Europe.

    But then they started putting videos on YouTube, and the business model took a different turn. In the summer of 2010, Kaya Rosenthal’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind” was released, and the video has since racked up more than 5 million views. Wilson makes a cameo in the very first scene.

    One day in late 2010, Wilson got email from Georgina Kelly, asking if her daughter could have an audition.

    “She was a good singer,” Wilson says. “Not the best, but we could work with her.”

    The singer was Rebecca Black, and Wilson and Jey subsequently wrote and produced 2011’s “Friday,” an irresistibly inane song about a day of the week. The video and song cost $4,000.

    People couldn’t believe the song was so vacuous and un-self-aware, so they shared and clicked and shared, as if that would somehow validate its existence. The backlash the then-14-year-old Black experienced after the song went viral caused her to have to leave school, but then the Internet exhaled, and something odd happened: She found many of her haters had become fans. (Black did not respond to an interview request.)

    Things went differently for Wilson: ARK Music Factory fielded lawsuits from Black’s mother disputing the song’s copyright and terms of Rebecca’s contract, and the litigation that followed led Wilson and Jey to part ways. ARK Music Factory still exists, but with different owners. Wilson launched his own company, PMW Live, in 2011.

    I ask Wilson about Black’s video for the song “Saturday,” which was released in early December, a few days before our call. With “Saturday,” Black is clearly attempting to assert her independence and distance herself from “Friday” with an obvious callback. Towards the end of the video, a man is arrested at a party she and her friends are attending. Wilson doesn’t think it’s a direct diss, even if others do. (The previous month, a Change.org petition circulated to keep Wilson away from minors.)

    “She wanted to become a more serious artist,” he explains. “She tried to get away from ‘Friday,’ but that’s how she got discovered. Without ‘Friday,’ she would not exist.” “Friday” now has more than 60 million views, and Black was able to take that love-hate and channel it into a somewhat successful vlog career.

    After Black came 12-year-old Nicole Westbrook’s “It’s Thanksgiving” in 2012, an equally inane song about a holiday. The video featured Westbrook partying and singing with her friends, and Wilson’s cameo makes him the only adult at their party. (He’s also dressed as a turkey.) It has 15 million views, but she’s yet to have a followup hit.

    Wilson’s longest project has been Gold, who seeped into the cultural consciousness with “Chinese Food” last fall. She managed to ride out the initial hatred Black faced and developed a pretty loyal fanbase. Her Twitter feed is full of “Goldies,” a term coined by two 17-year-old Alabama fans named Abby and Gracie. They also run the @AlisonGoldFans account, and their fandom was solidified at a sleepover.

    “We were talking about music and YouTube and then we started talking about how we should write a song like ‘Friday’ by Rebecca Black and become famous,” Abby says via email. “And then at like the exact same time we were both like, ‘HAVE YOU HEARD THAT CHINESE FOOD SONG?’”

    They also keep up with Gold on Instagram, and occasionally Kik, a messaging app popular with teens. Their fandom has turned into a virtual friendship, but Abby says they’ve also developed something of a sisterly relationship with Gold:

    “We feel kind of like her big sisters because we try to defend her if someone tweets something rude, and we just want the best for her.”

    “ABCDEFG” got a lot of criticism for a scene in which Wilson, the Hitchcock of tween-pop Internet video cameos, lures Gold to a virtual “club” and puts a love potion in her drink to help with a crush. He says haters will make assumptions but that he wasn’t thinking of the connotations at the time.

    The video begins with him surveying a miniature town, dressed like Mr. Rogers, then looking in the window of the house in which Gold resides. In all of his videos, we’re seeing American teenagers free of any parental supervision, the bubble-world of youth used as a platform to churn out YouTube hits.


     

    Wilson says he does ask for clients’ input before writing songs and adds that making cameos is a matter of popular opinion.

    “If Fat Usher’s not in the video, they complain!”

    Who’s demanding Wilson’s cameos is still a mystery. “ABCDEFG” now sits at more than 2 million views, with 7,500 dislikes. Wilson says he gives his clients and their parents fair warning that Internet fame comes with inevitable backlash.

    “I tell parents: Are you sure you want to do this? Consider the hate on the Internet. You saw what happened with Rebecca; the Internet is a hateful place. Just don’t tell me tomorrow about the comments, because then I know you shouldn’t be doing this.

    “The haters are there, 80 percent, but then there are 20 percent fans. And you’ll get the haters to become lovers.”

    That’s what Wilson claims he’s trying to do, even if it seems he’s actively trying to monetize outrage and hate-clicks. But hate-clicks equal buzz, and though Wilson says he never actively set his sights on the tween demo, he explains, 11-to-14-year-old girls are the ones who audition.

    But “Shush Up” unfolds like Wilson was trying a little too hard for those hate-clicks. Via email, Gold says she “wanted to go for something different this time.” In a recent interview with U.K. site Mosh News, Wilson said the video is “pure art, and it’s no different than a Willow Smith video or the 10-year-old dancer Kaycee Rice. It’s no different from watching Dance Moms dancing with their kids or Toddlers and Tiaras.”

    Each single contains the same pop-music video tropes, amplified to the point of caricature. The songs are Seinfeldian in nature: While they are explicitly about what the title dictates, they are ultimately about nothing. So is Wilson critiquing this very American obsession with empty culture and shock tactics, a la Toddlers and Tiaras? Is he appealing to the Internet’s base need for hate-clicks? How troubled should we be that young girls the focus of this hate, the ease with which “slut” is lobbed at an 11-year-old?

    Wilson says this year he’ll be debuting a new reality show that will “reveal” everything he does and possibly address the questions of his critics: “The audition, how they pay me, how I select.”

    Wilson might not be close to conquering America, but he’s certainly used his shiny pop-music hit factory to redefine the viral hit, and what 15 minutes of fame means.

    Screengrab via patomusic/YouTube


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    Katherine Heigl’s career has been beset by controversy, but can crowdfunding give it a new direction? Producers of Heigl’s latest film are hoping her loyal fans will aid them in bringing an independent queer romance to life through Indiegogo.

    Jenny’s Wedding is the story of a woman, played by Heigl, who surprises her family by announcing her engagement—oh, and coming out.

    The Indiegogo campaign, with a goal set at $150,000, is a more modest attempt to follow in the footsteps of other popular film projects like the Veronica Mars movie and Zach Braff’s funding of a sequel to Garden State.

    In a twist on other film crowdfunding projects we’ve seen, however, Jenny’s Wedding has already been filmed. Now, the production team is hoping fans will put the icing on the wedding cake, and help boost the film’s post-production costs.

    The Indiegogo campaign is also pledging to donate 5 percent of the proceeds to PFLAG Cleveland, where the movie was filmed.

    On the surface, Jenny’s Wedding looks like a Lifetime movie: featuring Hollywood veterans like Tom Wilkinson and Alexis Bledel, it has all the trappings of a heartwarming lesbian family dramedy. But it’s also an indie production written and directed by Mary Agnes Donoghue, the screenwriter of Beaches and White Oleander. Both films are complex looks at relationships between women—a far cry from most of the films Heigl is known for.

    Then again, Heigl might be looking for a change after having been firmly labeled in Hollywood—both as a rom-com queen and as a notoriously difficult actress. In 2008 Heigl caused controversy by withdrawing herself from consideration for an Emmy because she felt she hadn’t given strong enough material on her hit show Grey’s Anatomy—and because she didn’t want to deprive other actresses in more deserving roles. After leaving the show, she notoriously called Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, which propelled her to stardom, “a little bit sexist,” then went on to star in films like The Ugly Truth that were a whole lot sexist. By the time 2012’s One for the Money tanked, the media was opining about her terrible career choices.

    “Women, LGBT persons and people of color deserve representation that better speaks to the diversity of their identities, to enjoy a cinema that challenges the limiting ways in which women and minorities are constructed,” wrote Nico Lang in the Huffington Post, “and in Heigl's case, that change needs to start with her.”

    Heigl has evidently been listening. But will fans listen back? In the 3 days since it launched, the Indiegogo campaign has raised a meager $10,000.

    But with 43 days to go, there’s plenty of time for a spring miracle—one that could signify another notch in the belt for Hollywood’s burgeoning crowdfunding movement, as well as the revitalization of Heigl’s career.

    Illustration by el4inquilino/deviantART (CC BY-SA 3.0)


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    Of all the hip-hop albums released in 1989, De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising might be the most influential and enduring. It’s the NYC trio’s debut, heavy on sample and flow, and it marked a new era of consciousness in hip-hop that would come through in A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, and the Pharcyde.

    To celebrate their 25th anniversary, De La Soul is letting fans download their entire catalog free for the next 25 hours. This is great news, since their complete discography can be hard to find on sites like Spotify or iTunes, due to their use of samples. De La Soul’s Posdnous toldRolling Stone that while they’re in the Library of Congress, “we can't even have our music on iTunes. We've been working very hard to get that solved."

     

    There’s also a promise of new music from the group, including their first album in a decade, titled You’re Welcome, which should be released this summer. Posdnuos added that being perfectionists might have delayed the new album:

    "Certain groups have too many 'yes men.' In our group, we have too many 'no men.' When we look back on some of the stuff we have, we're like, 'Yo, we need to just put this out.'”

    There are a lot of notable hip-hop anniversaries this year: The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die, Nas’s Illmatic, and OutKast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik all turn 20. De La’s catalog will be available until noon tomorrow, for all you lovers out there.

    Screengrab via 2PacShakurImmortal/YouTube


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    Comparing the Internet Age to, say, the medieval era, we’re tempted to believe that ours is the more advanced culture. But when you compress the 21st century into an obnoxious four-minute techno club video with a “Gangam Style”-like beat, you may feel that sense of superiority fade.

    The YouTube incarnation of “#SELFIE,” a track by New York producers The Chainsmokers, has racked up more than half a million hits in its first two weeks of existence, no doubt because it savagely mocks the narcissism of Instagram-addicted millennials even while compiling notable selfies from Snoop Dogg, David Hasselhoff, and Kim Kardashian—as well as some non-celebrities. 

    Are your photos suffering from a lack of likes? Which filter will make it look like you have a tan? How many hashtags should you use? Do you know anyone else at this stupid party? Why didn’t that guy text you back? Who is creeping on your profile? And can we take another selfie? These, more than any others, are the questions for our time.

    God help us.

    Photo via The Chainsmokers/YouTube


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    When Netflix decided to premiere its Mitt Romney campaign documentary, Mitt, three weeks ago, it probably thought it was doing House of Cards a favor. It would provide an apt lead-in to the second season of their flagship drama series while at the same time showcasing Netflix's burgeoning output across both fact and fiction. 

    But the scheduling has done House of Cards a disservice. Watched in tandem, the stumble-bum campaigning of Romney immediately makes Frank Underwood's (Kevin Spacey) journey appear ludicrous. Whereas Romney's political strategy seemed to mostly involve arguing about lighting in front of disinterested teamsters and praying with his never-ending family, Underwood's path included a body count. 

    This is intentional, of course, but misguided. House of Cards trades in the mythology of the American political Machiavel, an indication that its producers have never envisioned it as just another political drama. It is meant to be thrilling and shocking—and it succeeds at both. But originally it also had certain, grand pretensions, most evident through Underwood's frequent addressing of the audience that has been perceived by some as an allusion to Richard III

    The intention may well have been Shakespearean, but in practice this method became increasingly banal in Season 1—the cold classical language employed for his confessionals ("I cannot abide falling back to square one") jarring horribly with puerile lines like "Aren't you going to wish me a happy Father's Day?" while performing fellatio. It also served a decidedly non-Richard III purpose: lazy narrative elucidation rather than the audience manipulation the Bard used to garner sympathy in Richard

    Season 2 suggests that these failings were noticed and the aforementioned pretensions have been reined in. House of Cards can no longer paint itself as a timeless parable told in our time, but at least it no longer thinks that it is better than it is. Streamlined into a decidedly more traditional show, it is less about revenge and more focused on capturing Underwood's irrepressible ascent to power. Underwood continues to shock, but we are submitted to fewer of his interjections and are presented with more of his involvement in the machinations of government. 

    There still exists much of the clumsy symbolism that provided no service to Season 1 other than to allow slower viewers the satisfaction of noticing it. The boat theme, some sort of yardstick of the Underwood's shifting relationship, has thankfully gone the way of the broken ergometer, yet it has been replaced with a running metaphor. In the season's opening scene, we find the Underwoods jogging, stopping mid-stride, looking at each other and with no obvious causation, nodding to the other. It is labored and, perhaps being spoilt by the opaque stylings of Mad Men, it is obvious.

    Despite these fluctuations, Spacey's performance continues to be remarkable. Even with some particularly duff lines and at times ridiculous plotting, he makes Underwood if not exactly believable, at least enjoyable. He is so central to the show that the development of other characters surely suffers. Structurally this could be seen as a problem, as no other major series is as reliant on a single core narrative as House of Cards. Indeed it means that Underwood himself continues to have hands-on involvement in matters that common-sense suggests he would be able, and prudent, to distance himself from.

    This fault can be explained away as entertainment, but the show's complete reliance on Spacey leads into its other structural defect, namely its potential pointlessness if the seemingly inevitable occurred and Underwood reached his ultimate goal. 

    From the outset, the role of president has very much been Underwood's endgame, and beyond that it doesn't seem like this program would have a future, as we have been conditioned only to be interested in his trajectory, not his landing. It is possibly an unnecessary concern, but it would be shame to cut short Spacey's stint in this role.

    Screengrab via House of Cards/Netflix


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    BY CARLY LANNING

    Welcome back to the YouTube millionaires club, Grace Helbig.

    At the start of 2014, Helbig shocked fans with the announcement that she would be leaving her beloved Daily Grace channel after the expiration of her contract with My Damn Channel. It was the ultimate breakup, and Helbig’s fans took to YouTube in a panic trying to learn the fate of their favorite awkward, lovable vlogger.

    Helbig originally began creating daily vlogs for My Damn Channel in 2008 and over the years, structured her channel around the daily categories of Miscellaneous Mondays, Comment Tuesdays, Review Wednesdays, How To Thursdays, and Sexy Fridays. With countless viral videos in her archive, Helbig is best known for her hilariously random “Sexy 911 Calls” and “101 Ways To Say No To Sex”—and star-studded collaborations with popular YouTubers like Hannah Hart, Mamrie Hart, JacksGap, Zoella, Rhett and Link, Shane Dawson, Tyler Oakley, Caspar Lee, and Chester See.

    Though forced to leave behind years worth of content and 2.2 million Daily Grace subscribers, Helbig has smoothly transitioned to her new channel, It’s Grace, and begun rebuilding her video portfolio. In less than two months since the channel’s launch, Helbig has gained over one million new subscribers and further secured her reputation as a YouTube badass.

    The new channel wasn’t the only launch on Helbig’s plate this month. Today marks the relase of Camp Takota—the highly anticipated movie starring Helbig and her real-life best friends Hannah Hart and Mamrie Hart. With a world of possibilities in front of her, Helbig talks more about leaving My Damn Channel, starting over on YouTube, and her crusade for tighty-whities. 


    The Daily Dot: With the new channel launched, how is everything going?

    Grace Helbig: Amazingly! I have zero complaints about anything. The transition from Daily Grace to It’s Grace has been above and beyond all of my expectations and I can’t thank the YouTube community enough for being so supportive of the launch and [being] really, really sweet.

    DD: What made you leave Daily Grace and the My Damn Channel?

    GH: We couldn't find a mutually beneficial way to move forward, but we're on good terms and wish each other the best.

    DD: Did you have concerns going into this or were you just ready to jump in?

    GH: There is always hesitation when you bring any sort of change to an audience—especially change on a channel that has been on YouTube for three years and the audience is very well adapted to how things run. It’s very structured in its non-structure. I was worried that it would be too significant a change for the audience to adapt to [but] it’s been great because I think they realize that Daily Grace is not a character, it’s me, Grace Helbig, and that’s what I bring to now It’s Grace. Everyone seems super receptive and very positive and I feel great about it.

    DD: Was it nerve wracking putting up the first video?

    GH: It was! I wasn’t allowed to talk about it for a long time though I had known that this kind of shift was happening for a little while. So I was really nervous and the Internet—they are super sleuths, all of the kids on the Internet, and so they kind of picked up wind about it and were trading all these conspiracy theories about what was happening. So uploading the first video and getting so much outpouring of love from other members of the YouTube community was like, “Oh, this has been a good choice. I feel really positive about this.”

    DD: Did you know that Daily Grace would stay with the My Damn Channel network?

    GH: I didn’t know. I had no idea. I kept myself open to all the possibilities. I knew that—for the past year, I pretty much knew that I would have to start a new channel, but I still love the Internet and wanted to pour myself into the Daily Grace channel no matter what because the fan base is more important than the contract. So that was my goal while the negotiations were happening, and still is my goal now while I’m trying to rebuild. [The audience] has been so supportive of me that I want to cradle and support them and let them know that everything’s fine, we’re all good.

    DD: What can we expect from the new channel? What will be the same? What will be different?

    GH: Well, the channels are very similar because it’s me as myself recording myself, so you’re going to see a lot of similarities between the two. But I hope what’s different for not only the channel It’s Grace 2014, but for the brand overall, is I hope to continue to expand into other areas of creative content and original content. We have Camp Takota coming out on Valentine’s Day—we’re all so pumped for it! It’s so exciting! So our foray into new media meets old media makeout romantically on Valentine’s day so I’m hoping to continue to expand the brand. I don’t have a five year plan, maybe I should. I don’t have a five month plan, I probably should, but I’m just saying yes to opportunities that feel right for myself and for the audience [that’s] cultivated.

     



    DD: Any plans you can talk about now?

    GH: Well obviously Camp Takota. Camp Takota is kind of on the brain now that [it's] available—which is crazy. So just a rreminder to everyone that they can go to camptakota.com and order the film along with a variety of treats as you will [laughs]. One [treat] being tighty whitey underwear with our names on the band—yeah, it’s a high class production that we’re running. And the underwear was my idea and I pitched it every single marketing meeting and it finally went through so I really support the underwear. Other than that, working on some TV stuff and hoping that develops into something a little more [that I can] officially talk about. And just kind of trying to keep It’s Grace growing and get the feet on the ground and figure out exactly what it is—because it still feels like a little bit of a newborn baby. Like a newborn baby born with more intelligence than other newborn babies in a way. A baby that already knows how to walk when it comes out of the womb.

    DD: Oh, those babies.

    GH: Yeah, one of those!

    DD: Have you figured out what each day is going to be? It’s been fun seeing it change.

    GH: After doing a total of five years of Daily Grace, you kind of get burned out on doing the same thing over and over again, so I am allowing myself to not have totally any specific structure. I like that there will be some structure so people know what to expect, but for it to be spontaneous and people [can] help build it with me. I really want the audience to feel like we’re building this together—that their suggestions are helpful and will tailor how things go in the future. Also, just keeping it kind of free flowing with a little bit of structure—so it’s a blazer and skirt.

    DD: Are you interested in signing with another network?

    GH: I’m not totally sure. I’ve had a lot of meetings with a lot of wonderful networks and I am in negotiations with some right now, but in my brain there is no real rush at the moment. My main concern is making sure the audience is happy.

    DD: Has it been all positive? Have there been challenges?

    GH: It’s been really surprisingly very positive. It’s been really great and everyone, like I said, has been really supportive. The only struggle really is how to keep things fresh now that there’s a new opportunity to do that. It’s just wracking my creative brain and trying to keep things new and fun and interesting and relevant, and also, completely irrelevant.

    DD: What inspires you to keep making content everyday?

    GH: Oh it’s crazy, but it’s become such a part of my day to day routine, I feel like it’s something I have to do or I’ll feel like I didn’t do anything. I took a week off before Christmas time and I felt so strange because it’s so ingrained in me everyday to sit and edit or shoot. I’m constantly thinking about ideas, that if I didn’t do it, I think I would feel nervous about not releasing that creative energy that happens when I get to make these videos. Stupid, but I just need a moment in my day when I can just release complete stupidity.

    You can check out more on It’s Grace here and Camp Takota here

    Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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