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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    The Sochi Winter Olympics have been a great source of entertaining tweets. Athletes have been busy sharing behind-the-scenes photos and commentary on what’s happening on the ground in Sochi. It’s been an amusing and insightful way to experience the winter games. 

    Oh but wait! Some of those tweets are pre-packaged, coming to you directly not from the athletes themselves but from their sponsors.

    According to a new report, athletes who have social brand sponsorships have certain requirements for their posts—i.e., they need to upload X amount of Instagrams, Facebook posts, and tweets. And sometimes, when they can’t meet the demand they need to, someone from the brand steps in to lend a hand.

    Two of the athletes working with such sponsorships are U.S. figure skaters Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner. Wagner’s agent said he can access her account in order to tweet at her 60,000 plus followers.

    "It's not like Ashley doesn't know about these. I mean we send her all these,” he told the AP. “She had to approve all of them, and so it's not that she does not know what is being said. She's seen it. She's part of this whole process… it's just that with her schedule, and if we can make things easier, what's the difference?"

    Well the difference is authenticity. We know hese tweets are commercialized, but removing the athlete eliminates any personal touch that might exist. 

    But that’s just what I think! Let’s actually look at some of Gold’s and Wagner’s tweets to see “what’s the difference.”

    Can you tell? If not, then kudos to these athletes’ agents. Keep the escapade (icecapade?) going. 

    H/T ABC News | Photo via Twitter


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    “Partition,” one of the singles from Beyoncé’s two-month-old self-titled album, recently hit No. 49 on Billboard’s Streaming Songs chart. And YouTube played a big part in its ascent.

    Neither the album nor its corresponding videos are on YouTube, and you can’t find it on streaming sites, only iTunes. Instead, the song’s seeing a rise up the charts thanks to choreographers who are uploading their routines to YouTube and audiences clicking on and sharing those videos. 

    Choreographer Yanis Marshall released this clip in late December—donning stiletto boots to perform the routine, no less—and since then, other dancers and choreographers have followed suit.

    “Partition” is the perfect song for a choreographer, so it makes sense so many would be showcasing their routines. But this trend is also a reminder of YouTube’s role in audience participation, beyond cover songs. Dion Singer, executive vice president of marketing and creative at Warner Bros. Records, told Billboard that "A true hit song is one where the audience goes from passive to active." One of his clients, Jason Derulo, has seen success with the many choreographed routines that have come from his song "Talk Dirty." 

    This is also a reminder of YouTube’s role in influencing the charts, both via new and old songs. Last year, after Marina Shifrin’s “I Quit” video went viral, the Kanye West song featured in it showed up on the Billboard charts eight years after its release. (West also appears in the new “Drunk in Love” remix.) The streaming numbers for “Partition” additionally got a boost from “Yoncé,” the other half of the track.

    The “Partition” phenomenon was compared to last year’s “Harlem Shake” fan-made video sensation, and in terms of chart placement via YouTube clicks, it makes sense. But this interpretation of the song doesn’t feel like parody. It’s a subculture putting its own spin on the song and creating a new type of synergy: Beyoncé shared Marshall's video on her Facebook page shortly after it was released.

    Screengrab via Yanis Marshall/YouTube


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    The Twitter account @555uhz, poised to become one of the greatest Internet mysteries of our time, has a fairly simple schtick: It doesn’t follow anyone, and every half hour, it posts a still from the 1986 Tom Cruise fighter-pilot drama Top Gun. These aren’t random screengrabs, either—they’re in chronological order. The results are mesmerizing.

    Due to the movie’s content (which some have called homoerotic), as well as the nature of subtitles and sound editing, some oddly delightful freeze-frames and juxtapositions occur. 

    It’s not too late to start following this experiment. As of writing, we’re less than 20 minutes into the film’s running time. (For those quite familiar with it, we’ve just gotten to the bar scene.) Will whoever’s behind the account reveal themselves after the credits roll, or will they just put on the next movie? Either way, they can be my wingman anytime.

    Photo by mashleymorgan/Flickr


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    Season two of Netflix’s original series House of Cards premiered on Friday, and throughout the weekend, social media fueled conversations about what exactly Frank Underwood wants and just how evil he is, as well as some more spoiler-y discussions.

    The show hinges on the muscle of several D.C. power struggles, but Kevin Spacey’s stoic tyrant Underwood is the lungs, breathing out icy knives of political rhetoric that would make for a great series of motivational office posters (for sociopaths.) The show has made his direct addressing of the camera a plot device, one which aides his covert, shadowy maneuvering by keeping his friends and enemies (which are the same thing on House of Cards) out of earshot, letting only the audience in on his confessionals.

    Here’s a nice collection of all Underwood’s most chilling motivational lines from season two, like, “Shake with your right hand, but hold a rock in your left” and “When you’re fresh meat, kill, and throw them something fresher.” He’s an evil, modern-day Confucius.

    Screengrab via Digg/YouTube


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    Kanye West proposed to Kim Kardashian last fall during a secretive cocktail party in San Francisco Giants home fort, AT&T Park. E! maintained exclusive filming rights, and the full version has been under wraps. Until now: Sunday night the proposal episode debuted on Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

    Of course I had to watch to see if true love exists, and these are the things I discovered along the way.

    1. It’s nice to see West cement a lust that he rapped about seven years ago.

    Kanye West name-checked Kim on his Can’t Tell Me Nothing mixtape in the summer of 2007. It was a simpler time, when Kim was an unknown beauty—a fringe object of desire for hip-hop stars. I still kind of think that the genre is responsible for her ascent because the first Kim covers stemmed from rap-friendly entities like Complex Magazine. Even then, it was love.


    2. Kim has had quite a bit of facial surgery. That is superficial but worth pointing out because it makes her elation tough to gauge.

    Kim is this era’s Pamela Anderson—the embodiment of a pin-up, who, as Chuck Klosterman wrote a decade ago, men take pride in rejecting conversationally because of a perceived hollowness that stems from acknowledging this brand of artificially enhanced physical beauty.

     

    I think that’s a dishonest position to take, and I generally defend Kim as worthy of fame because American culture is littered with iconic knock outs.

    3. This is tasteful and beautiful.

    Kourtney said it best: “Kanye is a perfectionist so I know that whatever the surprise is—it’s going to be something major.” Khloe later follows up by saying: “This is the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”


    That’s quite the endorsement, but I agree entirely: Kim and Kanye walk to second base in the dark. There is a sweeping orchestra (with flames). Kanye pulls out a purple box and says, “I just want to know… if you’ll marry me.”


    4. Oh man, Kim has many relatives that are California residents.

    The Kardashian tribe emerges from the visitor’s dugout. 


    5. The jumbotron message is too self-aware to be funny, and it kind of makes me uncomfortable.

    Pleeease Marry Meee!!!


    6. The cocktail hour seems very pleasant but also makes me feel bad for these people.

    I lived in D.C. for three years and was in the Newseum’s Newseum club. I don’t remember the perks and only visited the Newseum during business hours once, but I did get to attend a gala that had wine and hors d'oeuvres. An important man spoke about initiatives.


    You’ve been to some version of this occasion—an event where the food is free but the music is big band elevator jazz and a formal, uncomfortably stiff vibe grips everything. Same awkward, black-tie stuff here, except this is an invite-only family gathering. Brody and Bruce Jenner are notably not in the house. But maybe these aren’t such vapid and self-centered people. The Kardashian’s are just a tight knit bunch who understand the closeness and importance of family… right!?

    7. Are they rocking out to “Black Skinhead” by jumping up and down like they’re in a late ‘90s era mosh pit?

    This is like getting your first Coke Zero only to discover that it tastes like Diet Coke. It’s weird, seeing rich people play with a heavy, subversive pop anthem like it’s a cuddle bug. In this moment, I understand the hateful attitude the public at-large takes toward Kim, her family, and West.


    There are three unpopular projections condensed into one being that turns on the beacon of disdain: Disobedient and loud public figures; rich people who are believed undeserving; and the flaunting of power as exemplified by private soirees at MLB ball parks, unchained style.

    Anyway, jury’s still out on that true love thing.

    H/T Jezebel | Screenshots via Jezebel


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    Jimmy Fallon began his reign as the newest host of The Tonight Show in the city where it all started.

    He brought his writers, the Roots, and sidekick Steve Higgins with him to Studio 6B, just right down the hall from his Late Night studio, and the first night was full of celebrity cameos, family heckling, and showcasing from the guests and the other big star of The Tonight Show, courtesy of musical guest U2: New York City.

    He started the show with a heartfelt introduction to those who may be watching him for the first time, but he also managed to acknowledge the elephant in the room in the first minute of his first monologue.

    “I’m Jimmy Fallon and I’ll be your host for now,” he said as he listed all of the previous Tonight Show hosts before him (including Jay Leno twice).

    It was also a family affair, and along with his late-night family moving house with him, he had his parents, Jim and Gloria Fallon, in the audience ready to heckle him about graduating high school.

    His sister Gloria, who has written for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, was also quite the proud sibling.

    Anyone worried about missing out on the sketches and parodies that made Fallon a viral star need not worry. He got his first guest, Will Smith, to join him for one of his “Evolution of Dancing” videos that Justin Timberlake and Michelle Obama made famous. Hopefully we’ll be seeing a Tonight Show–worthy House of Cards parody soon enough.

    And when he sat on the couch later in the show, he had plenty of advice to offer Fallon about taking over The Tonight Show.

    But what may be the best part of the episode came at the aid of Fallon’s parade of celebrity friends and guests. Once seated at his new desk, Fallon, still in awe, thanked his fans for believing in him after all these years.

    “And to my buddy who said that I’d never be the host of The Tonight Show, and you know who you are, you owe me a hundred bucks, buddy,” Fallon said before he found out that a lot more people than just his “buddy” thought he’d never get there. That group included Joan Rivers, who had been banned from The Tonight Show since 1986.

    It does get repetitive, but the final salute is worth the watch.

    All eyes will be on Fallon (and Seth Meyers, who is taking over Late Night) before things settle down, but people liked what they saw so far.

    And if last night’s episode was any indication, Fallon’s going to be just fine.

    Photo via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/YouTube


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    A sex toy is like a pet: In order to give it the love and care it deserves, you have to give it the right name. To that end, legendary news anchor Barbara Walters has revealed that she named her vibrator “selfie,” either as a sly nod to the masturbatory nature of social media, or because she’s 84 years old and doesn’t actually understand what a selfie is.

    Walters revealed the moniker of her favorite sex toy in a segment on The View earlier this week, after co-host Jenny McCarthy asked her if she had more “self-confidence” and “self-love” in old age. As you can tell from the video below, this got Walters very excited.

    Although at this point, every single American should’ve immediately realized the direction the conversation was going in and changed the channel to that show where doctors talk about being doctors, the discussion of the TV icon’s masturbatory habits somehow continued. “You start talking about that vibrator of yours again, I can’t handle it,” co-host Whoopi Goldberg chimed in.

    “You know what it’s called?” Walters said triumphantly. “Selfie!”

    So there you have it, America. Barbara Walters’ vibrator is named Selfie. All things considered, that’s a lot less gross than the time we found out she had sex with Alan Greenspan.

    H/T Betabeat | Photo by Victoria Belanger/Flickr (CC BY - NC - ND 2.0) 


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    Whisper, the social sharing app that allows users to post secrets, confessions, and updates anonymously, just posted a juicy celebrity scoop endorsed by its editor-in-chief, Neetzan Zimmerman: 

    Zimmerman also confirmed that he had checked that there was substance behind the rumor: 

    Rumors have been floating around that Paltrow is having an affair for a while now, but this is notable for its specificity (naming entertainment lawyer Kevin Yorn) and because Zimmerman has confirmed that the source is someone with “extremely close ties to Gwyneth” who he believes is telling the truth.

    Zimmerman explained all this to Defamer, which is part of Gawker Media, where Zimmerman gained fame as the Internet’s most successful viral sherpa.

    When Whisper hired Zimmerman away from Gawker, it seemed like an odd move. What would the king of viral do at PostSecret: The Second Coming? Now it’s becoming clear that one of Zimmerman’s jobs will be curating and vetting rumors (especially ones involving famous people) posted to the app.

    But how, exactly, does an editor-in-chief verify posts that are supposed to be anonymous?

    In the case of the Paltrow Affair, the source approached Whisper first and then posted afterward, so no one from the app went digging for an identity after a post went up. However, Whisper can look into its posters if something like that does happen, per its privacy policy. 

    I asked Zimmerman on Twitter if he had special access as the editor-in-chief:

    This wasn’t exactly super-helpful; it’s still unclear whether Zimmerman can message the purveyors of potentially explosive gossip directly, whether he can look at their former posts to suss out whether they’re big fat liars or not, or whether he can look at their phone number (if provided) to call them up and ask them what the deal is. We reached out to Whisper for clarification about how this vetting process works, but we have yet to hear back.

    There's also the possibility that Zimmerman's job entails getting these types of tips and then working with the gossipers to get those posts on Whisper. Or perhaps Whisper is doing a combination of all of these things to turn itself into an app tabloid. 

    Although Whisper’s terms of use explicitly forbids libelous and defamatory material, the app gives itself an out for hosting posts that end up being rumors. The app’s community guidelines state: 

    Note that an allegation of defamatory expression, in and of itself, does not establish defamation. The truth or falsehood of a bit of expression is a key element in establishing defamation, and we are not in a position to make that sort of fact-based judgment. That said, if we have reason to believe that a particular statement is defamatory (a court order, for example), we will remove that statement. 

    So don’t expect the Gwyneth post to go down until her lawyers get a court order. And do expect more scoops like this to get posted on Whisper.

    Photo via Daniel Oines/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    Pharrell Williams is the hottest thing in music right now, so it stands to reason that it was only a matter of time before the YouTube mashup crew Pomplamoose came to cover the singer. 

    On Tuesday, the California-based YouTube duo—made famous through a series of annoying Hyundai ads during the holiday season in 2010—emerged from their quirky studio with “Happy Get Lucky,” a lively, danceable mashup of Pharrell Williams’s two latest hits, “Happy” and “Get Lucky,” the track he recorded with Daft Punk.

    The mashup pulls the chords from “Get Lucky” and the vocals from “Happy” on the verses before throwing a curveball and incorporating the lyrics to Daft Punk’s “Lose Yourself to Dance” into the chorus alongside the chords to “Happy.” 

    The mashup also features boobs—Nataly’s in particular—right around the one minute mark, though they weren’t exposed in any explicit way. 

    “We didn’t intend to make a boob video,” they wrote. “We just thought it would be cool to project on another 3-D surface… and Nataly’s boobs make great eyeballs.” 

    Like many of Pomplamoose’s clips, the video was created in one take, with no cuts or invisible edits. “All effects in this video were created with only white foam board and one single projector,” they explained at the onset of the clip. “We drag shapes around our video editor to line them up with our set.”

    Guess they knew they had to get lucky.

    Photo via Pomplamoose/YouTube


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    Anyone worried that Jimmy Fallon would abandon his trademark variety sketches upon starting his Tonight Show gig can set their fears aside.

    He and Will Smith performed the latest “Evolution of Dancing” on his inaugural show, and last night he brought another gem out of the Late Night goody bag.

    The Ragtime Gals, Fallon’s barbershop quartet (complete with the striped suits and hats), has settled in quite nicely in the new studio and still had time to harmonize yet another innuendo-laden song so it’s fit for the whole family.

    R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” is completely transformed into an almost recognizable and even catchier tune, and somehow the “toot toot”s blended in even better than the original.

    You could never imagine Jay Leno doing something like this.

    Photo via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/YouTube


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    Slacktory is known for its expertly edited supercuts and pop-culture mashups, but they’ve slowly been dipping a toe in original programming. Apt 8 News was their first attempt at an abbreviated sitcom. Now comes Tough Love.

    The second season of the original webseries debuted on Tuesday, and chronicles the lives of two best friends and roommates (Blaire Wendel and Steven Bell) living in Queens and trying to make it as actors. In the first episode, Wendel and Bell face some hard truths about their life, which includes unattended Netflix queues and organizing email inboxes. This truthbomb is delivered by their reclusive gamer roommate.

     

     

    Back in December, Slacktory’s Nick Douglas discussed Apt 8 News, and their desire to create original programming beyond supercuts:

    “Our supercuts and remixes already get millions of views by providing smart yet goofy commentary on pop culture. Now I want Slacktory to be just as well-known for our original comedy. I'm hunting for more shows like Apt 8 News, as well as one-off sketches and character portraits, that are just as compelling as our remixes.”

    In its second season, Tough Love has some parallels to Comedy Central’s Broad City, in that the two main characters’ friendship seems genuine, and the awkward moments feel relatable. Having someone question your sexuality at a weird party? Check. Getting caught stealing booze from that same weird party? Ditto. The storylines also tie into New York City and its boroughs, mirroring the geographical comedy of the new original webseries Only in Hell LA.

     

     

    It’s certainly Slacktory’s most ambitious effort yet. The first season was shot mostly in one location—an apartment—but season two expanded its storylines, cast, and locales. Back in December, Douglas related his vision for the site, in terms of original programming:

    “I want Slacktory to be the place where future Internet celebrities did their gritty early work, honed their talent, and took one step closer to building their own loyal audiences.”

    Via email, Douglas explained his vision for Tough Love

    I hope Tough Love will appeal to adult comedy fans. We tried to tell a sitcom-level story in each episode, in under a third of the runtime. We also hoped to tell a story about being gay in New York that built on the groundwork that previous shows have laid—shows that made it possible to have a show with gay stars that isn't 'that show about gay people.' A lot of the show is based on Steven and Blaire's real experiences.

    Our major challenge is getting people to take a first chance on the show. Like many good sitcoms, we don't have a catchy 'hook'—if there's a single premise, it's that most of us hip cool New Yorkers are just self-conscious schlubs trying to make it. Throughout the series, we see nearly every character break down and misstep. We see that the people who are supposed to have life figured out are faking it just like the rest of us. I hope that with that, we've captured a sliver of what draws people to smart, grounded comedies like 'Girls.'"

    In the meantime, Slacktory continues to lampoon pop culture: Make sure to watch Douglas's Flappy Bird apology. 

    Screengrab via Slacktory/YouTube

     


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    On June 7, 2000, legendary ‘90s porn star Jake Steed was arrested. The charges he faced were serious: corporal injury to a spouse and false imprisonment. Instead of facing trial, Steed fled the country, reportedly crossing the border into South America.

    For the past decade, nobody has heard from Jake Steed. Generic messages are posted on his website, signed by Steed, but they’re presumably authored by an administrator of the site who sells niche “shemale” pornography.

    But in the past week, hundreds of Internet users have spent hours investigating every detail of Steed’s career. This isn’t due to a new porn film or his emergence from hiding. Instead, it’s a cryptic reference in Grand Theft Auto Vand some are convinced it contains the answer to one of the game’s biggest mysteries.

    Ever since the first trailers were released for Grand Theft Auto V, eager fans of the series have delved into the game’s details in search of a conspiracy. From the sasquatch on the fictional city of Los Santos’s police crest, to the mysterious murals on the game’s tallest mountain, the game’s developers left a trail of clues hinting at paranormal secrets waiting to be found.


    Sasquatch can been seen in the corner of the Los Santos police crest.

    Screenshot via RockstarGames/YouTube

    When players finish every objective in the game, it’s possible for them to discover mysterious UFOs floating high above the city. For most players, that’s evidence enough of a paranormal conspiracy. But a small community of Grand Theft Auto V players believes that there is one object yet to be found: the elusive jetpack.

    Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, seen by many as the creative highpoint of the series, features a functioning jetpack hidden deep within the game’s military base. With Grand Theft Auto V set in the same fictional American state, and with similar paranormal clues, many video game conspiracy theorists consider the existence of a jetpack to be highly likely.

    It’s been five months since Grand Theft Auto V’s release, and the mythical jetpack remains just that. A community has formed on Reddit to pool resources and focus the hunt. The “Chiliad Mystery” community, named after the game’s tallest mountain, has turned to increasingly unlikely methods to seek answers: spectral analysis of in-game car horns, combing through the game’s files, even attempting to use glitches to travel under the sea.

    When Reddit user ddduckkk discovered one of Jake Steed’s porn names appears on the side of an aircraft hangar in Grand Theft Auto V, it seemed to be the break the community was looking for. The original post has become one of the subreddit’s most-upvoted submissions, with many quick to point out why the “Jack Sheepe” theory makes sense.

    Grand Theft Auto V screenshot via ddduckkk/Imgur

    This aircraft hangar that the advertisement appears on belongs to Trevor, one of the three main characters. If you combine all of the letters together into “JACKSHEEPESERVICINGTRIMANIFOLD,” and run it through an anagram solver, one of the results is “JETPACK CONFIRMED.” For some, that’s enough.

    Skeptics claim, however, that the anagram is mere coincidence. After all, it doesn’t use all of the letters. They’re also quick to point out that “Jack Sheepe” is the in-game parody of John Deere, the American tractor company; even the logo is similar.

    But the Grand Theft Auto conspiracy theorists remain convinced. You see, Jake Steed only ever used his “Jack Sheepe” alias once, and it’s that use of the name that has lead to further speculation regarding the meaning of the Jack Sheepe sign.


    The opening credits of The Cockateer.

    Jake Steed took a break from his career in hardcore pornography to star in the 1991 porn remake of the Disney superhero movie The Rocketeer. Under the name “Jack Sheepe,” Steed had a minor role as “B.O. Henchman #1” in The Cockateer.


    “Jack Sheepe” (left) in The Cockateer. 

    Screengrab via YouTube

    So why is this film significant? There are several reasons: The first is that both The Rockateer and its porn parody feature a jetpack as a central plot device. They’re also both set in Los Angeles, the basis for Grand Theft Auto V’s fictional city of Los Santos.

    Another piece of evidence that is claimed points toward the jetpack’s existence is the “R-108” shown beneath the advertisement. The runtime of The Rockateer is 108 minutes. The number 108 also appears throughout the TV series Lost, as it’s the sum of all the recurring numbers in the series. And eagle-eyed Grand Theft Auto V players have spotted “R-108” appearing throughout the game, most notably on angry hillbilly Cletus’s vest.

    Screenshot via biffboy6000/Imgur

    So is it plausible that Rockstar Games used the name of a pornographic actor as a hint that the jetpack is out there waiting to be found? At the very least, it’s an entertaining theory. As Reddit users scramble to link Jack Sheepe and Grand Theft Auto V together, they’ve theorized that Rockstar would have known of Sheepe long before the creation of the game

    When he wasn’t performing in porn films, Jake Steed also attempted to create a career for himself in the rap industry. His website features a self-penned rap about his “hoes,” and other tracks from his mixtape have surfaced online. The Houser brothers, the pair behind the Grand Theft Auto series, have long shared a love of rap music, taking influence from Def Jam records and Los Angeles’ rap scene in the 1990s.

    After spending a week researching ‘90s porn star Jake Steed, it seems that the Chiliad Mystery community has finished its investigation. The Jack Sheepe sign seems set to join the elevator doors, the sand glyphs, and the hippy camp as in-game items that are considered by some on the Internet to be evidence of an alien conspiracy.

    Until the next breakthrough, the jetpack remains hidden, and Jake Steed is presumably still hiding out in South America.

    Photo via Rockstar Games


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    In a video uploaded to YouTube yesterday, rapper Mac Lethal redefines what it means to learn the alphabet.

    As the video starts, the Kansas City, Mo., emcee can be seen in the studio, holding his head in his hand. We’re told this is his 67th take. He then launches into an absurdist, alliterative analyzation of the alphabet, from A to Z, in less than two minutes. He references Nick Nolte, Patton Oswalt, Einstein, and Adderall, the latter of which might be helpful for keeping up with his insane flow. How does his mouth keep up with his brain? And what does "like a sheet of Sudafed I'm swiftly swimming like a seahorse" really mean?

    Though it's hard to believe, this might actually one-up his “Pancake Rap.”

    Screengrab via Mac Lethal/YouTube


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    The writing room of The Simpsons has been the genesis of many notable comedy careers, with talent like Conan O’Brien escaping the cramped room where the world’s longest-running television animated series is written into life.

    During the 1990s, there was often a figure in the smoky haze of the room, a Simpsons writer who has never appeared on an episode commentary (besides one unconfirmed incident), and has never done publicity for the show. His name is John Swartzwelder, and he is the genius behind 59 episodes of The Simpsons, far more than any other individual writer. But despite this impressive record, there are only a handful of photos of him, none official.

    Swartzwelder, who worked on the series until the 15th season, is now an absurdist fiction writer, and he remains as reclusive as ever. Since the show’s sixth season, he was granted dispensation from having to attend writers’ meetings and was allowed to submit his work from home. It is said that the reason for Swartzwelder’s departure from the room itself was his habit of chain smoking, which he carried on even after a ban had come into place.

    Separated from his fellow writers, the long-haired genius, according to Simpsonscreator Matt Groening in an episode’s DVD commentary, found a diner he liked, and would write from the same booth every day whilst drinking “copious amounts of coffee.” However, California soon banned smoking inside public places, and Swartzwelder found himself with nowhere to go. Instead of finding a new place to write, he simply purchased the booth, installed it in his home, and continued his work as if nothing had changed.

    The diner booth personifies Swartzwelder’s style of writing. His scripts often feature classic American motifs, such as gangsters (he came up with the now infamous Fat Tony character), carnival workers, and Wild West movie tropes. His imprint is instantly recognisable in some of the greatest episodes in the show’s history, including “Krusty gets Kancelled,” which contained an “Eastern European Itchy and Scratchy” called Worker and Parasite, one of Matt Groening’s favourite moments from the series.

    It would be hard to nail down the best of Swartzwelder’s work, but his first credited episode, entitled “Bart the General,” is widely regarded as the first “proper” Simpsons episode.

    It’s not just in writing that the secretive Swartzwelder has had his impact on the town of Springfield. Due to his solitary nature, he often makes fleeting cameos as a mental patient or as a surprise witness called by inept attorney Lionel Hutz. If you blink, you will miss the homages, often written in by more recent writers seeking to honor one of their greatest predecessors.

    John Swartzwelder makes his first cameo in the episode “Hurricane Neddy.” Screengrab via McGarnagle.com
    John Swartzwelder makes his first cameo in the episode “Hurricane Neddy.” Screengrab via McGarnagle.com
     

    While he’s most famous for his work on The Simpsons, Swartzwelder got his start in the industry on Saturday Night Live, another breeding ground for talented writers. He also apparently appeared in one episode, but attempts to find what may be the only video of the reclusive writer have been futile.

    The one failure on his belt is a TV pilot turned one-off TV movie, Pistol Pete. The proposed show revolved around a goofy Wild West cowboy. In what is the only on-record statement from Swartzwelder, he remarked to a blogger that “Pistol Pete still makes me laugh, and [the actor] Stephen Kearney was terrific.” While not picked up by the networks, the spirit of the hopeful series lives on in his fiction.

    Swartzwelder’s books are certainly far removed from mainstream literature, continuing his obsession with the America of the past and approaching it as absurdist fiction. Swartzwelder ends up with some strange stories. Each book has an almost identical cover: a plain-coloured background with the book’s title followed with “By the Writer of 59 Simpsons Episodes.” Some of the plots are truly absurd, and with titles such as The Time Machine Did It and The Fifty Foot Detective, it can only be expected. The website for his books features a strange black-and-white picture of a dilapidated house, with no further explanation. And as for contact details, there is only a PO Box listed, located in Chatsworth, Calif.

    For a while, the very existence of Swartzwelder was debated, with a portion of the online fan community believing that he was, in fact, a pseudonym for collective writing. That would explain the large margin by which he leads the credited episodes rankings.

    There is another, even more intriguing, theory that fans have come up with: John Swartzwelder is the inspiration for popular Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson. The show’s co-creator Greg Daniels had previously worked as a writer and producer on The Simpsons. There is certainly a similarity: OtherSimpsons writers have called Swartzwelder a libertarian much like Swanson, and they both seem to enjoy old-fashioned American past times and a nice steak dinner. But despite the similarities between the pair, television producer Michael Schur has denied on Twitter that the character of Ron Swanson is based on John Swartzwelder.

    Only one reported audio recording of the man exists, and even its provenance is in doubt. During an audio commentary for The Simpsons episode “The Cartridge Family”, the writers discussing the show call a telephone number purportedly belonging to Swartzwelder. After a couple of minutes of conversation, the call is ended by the man on the end of the line, saying “Too bad this isn’t really John Swartzwelder, though.” After they hang up, Mike Scully mutters “I know he’s going to sue us.”

    Many long-time Simpsons fans believe the show is now long past its prime, a prime that seems to coincide exactly with Swartzwelder’s departure. Since the end of the 15th season, there hasn’t been a single episode written by this isolated genius, and the animated series seems to be the worse for it.

    Illustration by Jason Reed


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    Putting Jimmy Fallon in a sketch with fellow Saturday Night Live alum Will Ferrell and First Lady Michelle Obama is anything but ew.

    In the midst of a star-studded first week on The Tonight Show, Fallon has pulled out the best of his Late Night variety sketches and has already done an “Evolution of Dancing” video, a barbershop quartet, and made Brian Williams rap yet again—and none of them was a Jimmy Kimmel hoax (that we know of). And Obama has already shown that she’s willing to go all-out for a Fallon sketch.

    This time, Fallon and Obama recruited Thursday’s other guest for another rendition of “Ew!,” which featured Fallon and Ferrell dressed as teenage girls with an opinion on everything. The First Lady shows up and tries to change their views on exercise and kale chips while Ferrell makes out with his own headshot.

    And who wouldn’t be giddy if given permission to call Mrs. Obama “Michelle”?

    H/T Vulture | Photo via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/YouTube


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    With HBO’s critically acclaimed True Detective on track for renewal as an anthology series, with a different story, setting, and cast each season, every serious actor in Hollywood is doubtless angling for a moody role. And while no contract has been signed, nor any script written, Twitter has lost no time in pumping out brilliant recommendations for new co-leads.

    We have every reason to believe that all of the duos suggested here would excel in a tense, slow-burning crime miniseries on premium cable. Especially if half of that duo is Drake.

    Frankly, the only problem with casting choices like these is that the characters will be more interesting than the mystery.

    Photo by Erica Cherup/Flickr


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    This week in Sochi, figure skating fans witnessed the return of their sport’s most infamous tradition: Accusations of corruption in the judging system.

    2010 Olympic champion Kim Yuna was the favorite to win gold this year, so the fact that she ended up with silver already has fans up in arms -- and not just in her home country of South Korea. Nicknamed “Yuna Queen,” she is widely regarded to be one of the greatest figure skaters ever, and her defeat by 17-year-old Russian champion Adelina Sotnikova was so shocking as to be almost unbelievable. 

    Which is probably why so many people don’t actually believe it.

    The figure skating judgement system is so famously subjective and obscure that accusations of inflated results were among our top predictions for things to look out for during the Sochi Olympics. In this case, Sotnikova’s win set off alarm bells not just because of comparisons between her performance and Kim’s during the competition, but because the judging panel seemed weighted in favor of Russia.

    The anonymous nature of the scoring system makes it easy for fans and commentators to suspect corruption among the judging panel, particularly when the seemingly random selection of judges appears to be biased towards a certain country. From a pool of 13 judges, 9 are chosen to judge each competition, and in this case, the judges from South Korea, Great Britain, Sweden and the U.S. were excluded from the second half of the women’s event. Of the remaining judges, one was married to the president of the Russian skating federation, the Ukrainian representative had previously been given a one-year suspension after being caught trying to fix the results at the 1998 Winter Olympics, and two others were from former Eastern Bloc countries.

    This all adds up to a plausible starting point for conspiracy theories about their judgments, particularly since both of Russia’s top female skaters received scores that looked overly generous to people watching from home. 

     

    Because the judging results are presented anonymously, it’s impossible to tell who gave out certain grades. However, it is known that one judge gave Kim a zero on a jump that seemed competently executed to the naked eye (while every other judge gave her two points), and that one gave Sotnikova top marks for every element but two during the first half of the competition on Wednesday. So, even before the second half of the event had taken place, many fans were suspicious that Sotnikova had been overmarked, while Kim’s results seemed somewhat conservative for a performance that appeared to rival the way she skated before her gold medal win in 2010.

    The main argument in Sotnikova’s favor is that her long program (the second half of the competition) included a couple of slightly more difficult technical elements, meaning that its base value was worth about four points more than Kim’s. This meant that because the two skaters were effectively tied for first place after the first event, Sotnikova had more room to screw up during her long program. The question is, were Sotnikova’s scores inflated during that all-important first event, giving her more room to maneuver in the long program?

    Even taking into account the intricacies of the scoring system, Thursday’s medal results have inspired an unprecedented outcry from figure skating fans, with a Change.org petition racking up more than 1.5 million signatures in less than a day. The petition calls for an open investigation into the judging decisions during the women’s skating competition, adding, “This is NOT for Yuna Kim, this is for the FAIR SPORTSMANSHIP THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE CENTRAL TO THE WORLD EVENT OF THE OLYMPICS.”

    Writing for USA Today, Christine Brennan compared the result to one of the sport’s most notorious judging scandals, the 2002 Olympic pairs skating competition when Russian and French judges conspired to let the Russian pair win gold against the Canadian favorites. 

    “What happened tonight in the women's figure skating competition was worse than the 2002 Salt Lake City pairs judging scandal because, this time, we'll never find out who might have done what because all the judges' scores are now anonymous.”

    GIF via yehns/Tumblr

    Fans are also taking to social media to analyze the results, a far more convincing endeavour since the advent of the animated GIF. Illustrated using a clip of Sotnikova stumbling during the first half of the competition, Tumblr user yehns wrote, “To those who think Adelina deserved gold: How would you explain the fact that Adelina got higher marks than Asada Mao, who landed EIGHT triple [jumps] (including a triple axel)? It is a skill only a minority of skaters can even execute and is thus meant to be marked very highly as a result. What? Are you saying that Adelina had higher technical components than Yuna? Then explain how Asada got 144 points (with clean jumps) and Sotnikova got 149 points (with NOT clean jumps). Please. Fact: Sotnikova was inflated. Yuna Kim and Asada Mao were underscored.”

    Unfortunately for Sotnikova, her achievement has already been overshadowed by the popular opinion that Kim was the “real” winner, helpfully illustrated by this photoshopped image where Kim’s silver medal podium towers over her competitors:

     

    Illustration via gasengi

    However, it’s worth mentioning that while figure skating fans are up in arms over the defeat of their Queen, there’s vanishingly little hatred aimed at Sotnikova herself. As ever, it’s the judges who are being cast as the villains. Kim Yuna may have accepted her silver medal with grace and aplomb, but in the end, it’s the sport itself that will suffer if fans truly believe that the judging system is too corrupt to be trusted. 

    Photo via KOREAnet/Flickr


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    To those around the Internet who are mad as hell (or overjoyed) at the prospect of Miami Heat star LeBron James starring in a sequel to Space Jam—simmer down.

    The project might not happen.

    ESPN’s Brian Windorst was able to track down a response from the King James camp late Friday night that cast doubt on James’ involvement in a follow up to Michael Jordan’s loved 1996 kids movie, in which Jordan teams up with Looney Tunes to defeat space invaders. It did well at the box office, bringing in $230 million for Warner Bros. (though Independence Day, Twister, and The Nutty Professor were more popular that year.) If you remember nothing else about the film, you’ll probably recall R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” playing pretty much non-stop on the radio.

    Earlier Friday, Deadline Hollywood reported that Warner Bros. is developing a screenplay for a sequel to the film that would cast James in the basketball hero role. The news ignited an instant a firestorm on Twitter and elsewhere on the Web.

    While denials from sources close to LeBron James aren’t definitive proof the project won’t happen (he could be in more casual talks, or waiting for the studio to make a better offer), the film does have a long way to go before it makes it to the screen. It doesn’t even have a script. That being said, the huge reaction to the news will certainly give James and Warner Bros. executives something to think about.


    H/T CBSSports | Screengrab via cpearson18/YouTube


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    The dangers of Snapchat, sexting, and selfies are all-around us. Every day someone's getting arrested or outed thanks to leaving their digital trace somewhere, so it's no surprise that sharing incriminating photos can have consequences. But the new short film, SELFIE, makes the aftermath just a little scarier. 

    SELFIE is a companion piece to director Ben A. William's other short, called SLR. SLR focuses on the other side "selfies," meaning the person looking at them. More specifically, it's about someone obsessed with voyeur pornography. 

    You can watch SELFIE below and read more about how William's team created the movie, which is currently a Vimeo Staff Pick, here

    Screenshot via SELFIE/Vimeo 


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    Australian model and actress Charlotte Dawson, who attempted suicide in 2012 after an onslaught of trolling on Twitter and later became a figurehead of the anti-bullying movement, was found dead in her Sydney apartment Saturday morning.

    The host of Australia's Next Top Model had long-suffered from depression. Police said there were "no suspicious circumstances" surrounding her death. Friends grew concerned Saturday morning after Dawson's Twitter, where she was a voluminous poster, had gone dormant for 19 hours.

    Dawson had a long history of battling trolls on Twitter. In August, 2012, Dawson dug up the identity of one user who told her to "go hang yourself" on Twitter, called her up on the phone, and then reported the incident to the woman's work supervisor. She was shortly after suspended from her job. When Dawson went public about what happened, she became the subject of a torrent of abuse under the hashtag #diecharlotte. It looked something like this:

    Screengrab via Encyclopedia Dramatica

    Dawson later tweeted "you win," then took a combination of prescription pills and wine that almost killed her.

    "It just triggered that feeling of helplessness when the trolls got to me,'' Dawson said at the time. "They got the better of me and they won.''

     "If people are wanting you to kill yourself and you are somebody who has previously tried to end your life it's very, very easy to feel like that's exactly what you want to do."

    Dawson would go on to become an anti-bullying crusader, launching a media blitz that saw her speak on national TV and radio. Last year, Australia's National Rugby League, a major Australian sports association, made her an "anti-bullying ambassador."

    Police have yet to reveal the specific circumstances regarding Dawson's death. The night before, she'd sent a series of tweets bemoaning the poor state of Australia's healthcare system.

    The #diecharlotte hashtag doesn't appear to have made a resurgence recently, according to social analytics tool Topsy. But many of Dawson's fans immediately made it very clear whom they blamed for her death.

    Screengrab via Holden/YouTube


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