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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    The video game community has a proud history of pushing games to their absolute limits: hacking, modifying, exploiting and building in ways never intended or even imagined by game designers.

    For some, the challenge lies in modifying the game to suit their own vision, like Skywind, a project to remake the classic Elder Scrolls title Morrowind within the Skyrim game engine. Others try to subvert the game's mechanics from within or take the game’s limits to to their extreme. Just check out the ongoing attempt to model the entirety of Tolkein's Middle Earth in Minecraft.

    But for others, the aim is more ambitious still. Enter "virtual computing."

    In a level of self-reflection worthy of a David Foster Wallace novel, there are online communities dedicated to the modelling of virtual computers, and even running games on these computers, inside other games.

    Little big computing

    Using the principles of computer science, devotees are building fully functioning computers by exploiting the underlying mechanics of different games. Though they may be wired with virtual "redstone," or powered by virtual water, most of them could (with the right materials) theoretically by replicated in the real world and deliver the same results.

    While these "computers" are typically constructed without modifying the game, they nonetheless lend themselves to PC gaming, given the ease of sharing designs and saving files. As a PlayStation 3 exclusive, the computing community in Little Big Planet is somewhat of an oddity.

    Using an absurdly complex system of pulleys, gears, and levers, YouTuber upsilandre has successfully simulated an 8-bit calculator capable of double-digit addition and subtraction in the game.

    Other users have built their own versions, as well as digital clocks.

    For more complex and difficult constructions however, we must look to PC gaming. And when it comes to difficulty of construction, there's none more challenging than Dwarf Fortress.

    Inside Dwarf Fortress

    For the uninitiated, Dwarf Fortress is a civilization-building game like no other. It was one of Minecraft's inspirations, but it bears a closer resemblance to The Simsif your sims were alcoholic, short-tempered, violent dwarves. Its complexity puts every other game to shame, modelling everything from procedurally generated histories spanning thousands of years and tens of thousands of figures to the shape of the bridge of each dwarf's nose. It's also all rendered entirely in incomprehensible ASCII characters and has a learning curve steeper than an overhanging cliff.


     

    The computing prowess displayed by some members of the community would in any other game be incredible, but to have achieved them in Dwarf Fortress is simply unbelievable. Using a complex system of mechanisms, flood gates, gears, and pressure pads, players have created working logic gates, and calculators with graphical user interfaces and more.


    Using 75,368 mechanisms, BaronW's calculator is capable of multiplying and dividing multiple three-digit numbers.
     

    In an attempt to gauge the expertise required to build these things, I booted up Dwarf Fortress. On my first go, I forgot to pack any seeds for my dwarves, which resulted in there being no crops or  food. Everybody died. On my second go, a failure of farm management lead to too much food, resulting in every barrel in my fortress being filled with mushrooms, prompting alcohol withdrawal symptoms in my dwarves and a brutal spiral of vandalism and murder. Everybody died. On my third go, a misplaced channel suddenly submerged my dining hall in magma. Everybody died.

    So trust me then when I stress how impressive the work of “Jong” is. The user managed to build a fully functioning and programmable 8-bit computer complete with its own machine language in Dwarf Fortress, with no prior knowledge of computer science. (Blueprints for the curious can be found here.)

    The crown, however, must go to LordOOTFD, who found typical dwarfish power sources inadequate for his needs. Instead of manipulating pressurized water as his analogue for electricity, he powers his creations in a very different fashion: hundreds upon hundreds of kittens.


    A kitten- (and cow)-powered 9-bit adder in Dwarf Fortress with a tileset.
     

    Redstone wizardry

    Whilst Little Big Planet's creations give you a taste for what is possible, and Dwarf Fortress's computer-builders deserve a medal for their masochism as much as their achievements, it is in Minecraft where the art has truly been perfected.

    To give one mind-boggling example, Hans Lemurson has taken the virtual-computing craze to its meta conclusion: Minecraft in Minecraft. OK, so it's a rough approximation rather than the real deal, with the player represented by a single block in a two-dimensional world. But using a button interface and a labyrinth of redstone circuitry, Lemurson's version of Minecraft includes the ability to both destroy and create blocks, gravity, collision-checking, and an infinite world.

    Playing on the unique conducive qualities of the in-game material “redstone,” players use torches triggered by buttons and levers—and sometimes even fully functioning keyboards—to transmit lines of machine code through self-designed circuitry. They've replicated every aspect of computers we know, from CPUs to GPUs, RAM to ROM.


    breakdown of dudearent006's 10-bit redstone computer. Photo via dudearent006/Minecraft Forums
     

    Don't let the multiple-second lag on these virtual machines fool you: They are insanely powerful. They can run word processors, scientific graphing calculators, games, and music. Just a few decades ago, these computers would've been unimaginable in reality, let alone simulated within a game.

    But you might feel that this looks a little outdated. After all, who uses desktop computers anymore? If that's the case, then this project might be more up your street:

    It's a Minecraft iPhone. Making use of the recently introduced control blocks to radically reduce build size (if not the technical knowledge required), it has 22 functional apps, including Paint, Blackjack, and Music. It also has a customisable lock-screen code. It has everything.

    What’s that, you’re still not impressed? Try this:

    It’s Flappy Bird. In Minecraft. All hail.

    What drives people to build such mammoth, seemingly pointless creations? Because they can.

    "Why not?" Minecrafter stupidjesse retorts. “[W]e can pride ourselves in knowing we made something awesome." Boredompwndu echoes his sentiment: "because we can, and the resources exist to do it".

    "It is something I can mold," another player told me. "Something I can shape and think about and attempt to understand. Something that I can stand back, look at and say ‘I built that.’ Something I can do better than all my friends. Something I can understand and work with".

    Really, what more reason do you need?

    Illustration by Jason Reed


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    Remember that time a cult TV show got canceled, and lots of people were very very upset and spent a long time shouting about it on the Internet? And then after years of letter-writing campaigns and Comic Con appearances and social media outreach, the show came back for a one-off episode, or a Kickstarter-funded comeback movie?

    Heroes is not that show.

    On Saturday, NBC announced that Heroes’ creator Tim Kring would be bringing back the show for a 13-episode miniseries, five years after its cancelation in 2010. This news was met with a resounding chorus of... “But why?”

    There are plenty of names that spring to mind when you think of TV shows that were canceled before their time. Firefly. Veronica Mars. Pushing Daisies. All of these shows have one or two factors in common: a rabidly enthusiastic fanbase, critical acclaim in the face of mediocre ratings, or stories that were left untold due to early cancelation. Heroes doesn’t really have any of these things counting in its favor, particularly since the new miniseries is unlikely to feature any of the original core cast members in a central role.

    Basically, NBC’s plan is to reboot a TV show that failed in its latter seasons, with the new version featuring no recognizable characters, but still using the same showrunner who was in charge when it was canceled in the first place.

    Even on Tumblr, that haven of fannish enthusiasm, the responses on the “Heroes” and “Heroes Reborn” tags are a 50-50 split between genuine interest and pessimistic bafflement.

    “Do people realize Heroes wasn’t on hiatus?” writes backflipbrendon. “It was cancelled. And for a good reason.”

    Another blogger writes: “I guess my big question in regards to Heroes Reborn is…why now? Like, if people even still cared about Heroes when the show was still on... they’ve long since stopped caring now.”

    We’re not saying that Heroes doesn’t have fans, or a fandom. During its first season, the show was a genuine phenomenon, charming audiences and critics alike. But Heroes fandom is something that NBC spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to cultivate, rather than allowing it to generate organically like the fandoms for shows like Hannibal, Teen Wolf, or pre-Internet hits like Star Trek. Basically, Heroes is a case of network television trying as hard as it can to make fetch happen, even after it became pretty clear that fetch was not actually going to happen.

    The show’s launch was marked by viral marketing campaigns and a YouTube tie-in series, alongside a barrage of traditional advertising. The release of the first season DVD box set was publicised by a world tour with the cast and crew. NBC commissioned a ton of official online content including webisodes and an interactive site where fans could vote on the traits and powers of a new character on the show. Superheroes sell, and NBC was sure that if they pumped enough money into Heroes, it could be the biggest thing on television, a show that united comic book nerds with mainstream viewers of shows like Lost.

    Unfortunately, the 2007 writers strike happened halfway through Heroes’  second season, cutting short several key storylines and leading to a drop in interest from both viewers and critics. The series limped along for another couple of years, but never really regained the effect it achieved in season one.

    When Community finally gets canceled, there will be a great deal of screaming and rending of garments among its many fans. More than a decade after Firefly first aired on TV, people are still freaking out over its cancelation. But when it comes to Heroes, the people who seem most excited about a new spinoff series are NBC themselves.

    Photo via heroescoronation / Tumblr


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    A rapper called Boyfriend is giving voice to those who want to shout about their vaginas from the mountaintop. 

    The New Orleans emcee recently released the video for “Swanky,” a new anthem for independent ladies everywhere. It’s an alternate take on the tired refrain of “swag” in rap, an update on Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women.” A plea to “stay swank.”

    If you browse the rest of her YouTube videos, they feature wildly different personas, but they share a similar message. There’s the pro-sex rap, an ode to period sex, and perhaps the only hip-hop song to fetishize old age. Along with rapper Awkwafina, who addresses the somewhat taboo topic of queefs on her new album, and Hand Job Academy, who rapped about periods on “Shark Week,” she’s opening up hip-hop to a more honest depiction of female sexuality, with a sense of humor. 

    Boyfriend, who declined to give her real name, lives something of a double life. When I ask about her day job, and if there’ve been repercussions for songs like “Grannyfucker,” she offers a “no comment”: “I have to watch my ability to pay my bills for a minute.” 

    That duality plays into her music as well. She grew up in Nashville with a father who wrote country songs and a mother who was a photographer. She worked on Music Row, and grew up around the country music industry, but only recently stepped into the rap game. 

    She told the Daily Dot a bit about what it’s like being the Internet’s boyfriend. 

    When did you start rapping?

    I started a little over two years ago. I kind of fell into it drunkenly, on accident, by having a few beers and freestyling with friends, and realizing I had a natural knack for it. Which shouldn’t be surprising because I come from a family of songwriters. I was always the odd man out. I worked in the entertainment industry, but on the logistics side of it. I called myself the white collar sheep of the family, and I think it was just brewing under the surface all along. When I realized I was good at it, it all happened really fast. I recorded my first song, “Hunch and Munch,” in the studio with my dad. … I think I’d kind of seen the struggle, seen how artists in my family really had to advocate for themselves. Everyone in my family has had to sell themselves, you know, “Like my art!” It always turned me off. And now here I am; I’ve fallen right in step with my lineage. 

    Tell me a bit about your aesthetic. Is that what “Swanky” is about?

    When I set out to write and do the video for “Swanky,” we wanted to do something that was more accessible, because my aesthetic has bounced all around, and I look completely different from video to video. So I wanted to shoot for something I wanted to listen to when I was driving in my car, and that looks like something I can understand easily. I want people to know there are different sides to Boyfriend.

    On that note, tell me about “Grannyfucker.”

    I had released a mixtape of really dark, fucked-up material, and it was really easy for me to write because it was so exaggerated and removed from reality. And I developed this professional relationship with Kim Fowley [former manager of the Runaways]. He sent me these photos of him in a hospital bed, because he’s battling cancer, and it made me think of this song again, which is all about fetishizing old age, and making that proximity to death a turn-on.

    So he sent me these fantastic, gruesome photos, and I decided to place that within the art world, and rented out an art space in New Orleans, and set up this imaginary reality where there’s an underground where people fetishize old age, and go to art shows about it, and dress up like they’re old. And it’s a little tongue-in-cheek, because this was around the time rap and art were doing their thing, you know, Jay Z was rapping for six hours straight, Lady Gaga did Artpop, and I wanted to do my own wink-nudge take on it.  

    And going from there, what about “Period Rap”?

    I had just been so frustrated my whole life with boys being so grossed out by periods, and as a grown woman, I’m like, “Fuck that.” We deal with this all the time. It shouldn’t be some crazy taboo.

    So I wanted to do a song that just put it out there. In the video, those costumes we’re wearing, me and the actress actually performed in ninth grade in Rodgers and Hammerstein's “Cinderella,” and my mom made those costumes for us. So it was like, here we are almost 10 years later, in the woods, drinking blood, doing the fucked up video we wanted to do in ninth grade but couldn’t because we were in a Christian high school. 

    I know your music has been described as “raunchy,” but do you think that’s just because people aren’t used to a woman being so honest about their sexuality? 

    I do think that, and it’s funny, because having a female voice in rap, when I chose to do this, my first song was “Hunch and Munch,” which is all about sex. That was a conscious choice. It was in your face, but I look like a schoolteacher; I’m not supersexy, my boobs aren’t hanging out like Lil Kim. I’m very consciously participating in that tradition.

    There’s a duality to it: Isn’t it ridiculous that in order to rap, we have to rap about sex? But then the other half of me says, “Isn’t it awesome we get to rap about sex?” We should be able to talk about those things, but I recognize it’s also this artistic prison that women have placed on them. 

    You mentioned schoolteacher. Are you a teacher?

    Um, no comment. I have to watch my ability to pay my bills for a minute. But that duality: I’m living a double life now, for sure. 

    You have a new album coming out soon.

    It’s called Love Your Boyfriend, and it’s entirely dealing with love. I’ve never rapped about love before, and I was listening to a lot of ’60s soul records, and there’s this theme of codependency and need. And then I watched more recent videos, and the story hasn’t changed that much. We just sort of passively digest these songs about love, and I don’t really define love that way. So this is Boyfriend turning that on its ear.

    Does the name Boyfriend mess with those ideas?

    For sure. Everyone feels some type of way about that word, and this is me being like, “Hey, bitches, I’m your boyfriend.” Quit wondering when you’re going to meet Mr. Right and watch my videos, because I’m around 24 hours a day online. I’m the best boyfriend you could have.

    Photo by Akasha Rabut


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    Since LCD Soundsystem played its last show, frontman James Murphy has had three years to soak up New York’s ambiance. Now he wants to improve it in a small but meaningful way. Instead of the series of grating, dissonant beeps you hear at busy subway turnstiles, why not a cascade of harmonic tones? Suddenly, you’re part of a symphony.

    The Metro Transit Authority currently plans to improve subway travel by replacing card-swipe devices with a more efficient tap-and-ride system—which, Murphy wrote in a statement of purpose, presents an ideal opportunity to put his concept into action:

    What i propose to do is to create a series of 3 to 5 note sequences, all unique, one for each station in the subway system. These sequences will be part of an intersecting larger piece of music, which would run from station to station, and cross one another as, say, the 4, 5, 6 line (one musical piece) intersects with the L, N, R, Q and W (another musical piece) at Union Square. At each turnstile in Union Square, as you tap your new tap and ride card, a pleasant bell tone will sound, in one of a set of possible notes, all related to that station's note sequence. The effect would be that at the busiest times, like rush hour, what was once cacophony would now be music.  

    Murphy stressed that his vision could be achieved inexpensively, and his logic and timing are sound: “Someone's going to make a chip that beeps on the next system … that's a given. All I'm asking for is the chance to help make that beep something memorable.” You can hear a sample of the proposed melodic figures in a video interview Murphy did for the Wall Street Journal; they’re certainly an improvement over the current subway sonics.  

    But for all its modest sensibility, it will take some real muscle to bring the Subway Symphony to life—and that’s where you come in. Murphy has created a petition through which people can express their support for nicer noises in New York’s egalitarian underground. In a perfect world, he said, these tones could become part of the cultural fabric of the routes and stations they indicate, even neighborhood-specific rap samples.

    The buskers, we suppose, will have to learn to play along.    

    H/T Pitchfork | Photo by MTAPhotos/Flickr


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    Overnight, the entirety of Random Access Memories, Daft Punk’s latest album, was uploaded to YouTube.

    The robotic duo’s YouTube account now features every song from the album, with the new audio tracks joining the full music videos for "Get Lucky," "Lose Yourself To Dance," and "Instant Crush."

    Ten “Official Audio” tracks were uploaded, with each including a vinyl pop and hiss before showing a vinyl copy of the album being played.

    Only one track is missing from the new album: "Horizon," which was only released as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of Random Access Memories.

    In a 1997 interview, Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk told Massive magazine that one of the reasons why the pair decided to sign with a major record company was that “the music would be available to everybody, and after that people choose to like it or not.” With the new album available to listen to for free on YouTube, the pair have apparently returned to their roots. 

    Daft Punk's YouTube channel
     

    The new videos seem to take place in the same “spaceship” that Daft Punk featured in its album unboxing video. The flashing buttons in the background and minimalist turntable suggest that Daft Punk don’t intend on returning to Earth just yet.

    Screengrab via Daft Punk/YouTube


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    Katy Perry has been on a roll with cultural appropriation lately. After dressing in “geisha drag” at last fall’s American Music Awards and angering members of the Asian community, Perry has apparently offended the Muslim community with her new video for “Dark Horse,” which debuted last week and has nearly 30 million views.

    petition is now circulating, asking for the video to be removed from YouTube. The reason? A scene in which a man wearing a pendant including the word “Allah” is burned and turned into a pile of sand by Perry, who is dressed as... Cleopatra? Maybe? The petition explains:

    Such goes to show, that blasphemy is clearly conveyed in the video, since Katy Perry (who appears to be representing an opposition of God) engulfs the believer and the word God in flames. This is the reason for lodging the petition so that people from different walks of life, different religions and from different parts of the world, agree that the video promotes blasphemy, using the name of God in an irrelevant and distasteful manner would be considered inappropriate by any religion.


     

    The video begins, we are told, in Memphis, Egypt, “a crazy long time ago,” so it’s already historically accurate. After turning the man into a pile of sand, she’s offered platters of two Egyptian delicacies: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Twinkies.

    Juicy J then pops out of a sarcophagus to rap and grind with Perry, who is now pole-dancing.

    In addition to being offensive to Muslims, the video is basically offensive to anyone with eyes and taste. It's a flamin' hot mess of empty, cartoonish cultural signifiers, and sort of mirrors Perry's performance of the song on the Grammys, which relgious groups thought was satanic. The petition has more than 30,000 signatures, and many commenters agree the video is blasphemous and disrespectful. Of course, trolls infiltrated the comments section as well, showing the usual eloquence and thoughtfulness:

    Stop over reacting with your religion crap. Go live in the fucking desert if you can't handle either critisism or some lame video clip. For fuck sake so sick and tired or all these reli freaks from every religion. GET A FUCKING TISSUE AND STOP CRYING!

    Perry has not made an official statement on the matter.

    Screengrab via KatyPerryVEVO/YouTube


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    You know times are tough in the music industry when bands are trying to monetize torrents.

    For its latest single, “We Are Explorers,” Cut Copy teamed up with BitTorrent, Inc. to release a BitTorrent Bundle of freely downloadable media on Friday. For almost two years, artists like the Pixies, Death Grips, and Dispatch have partnered with the peer-to-peer file-sharing platform to license and release Bundles.

    At their least vital, Bundles function as press kits: an advance single, some concert footage, a PDF of liner notes. They seem to aim for ardent supporters of the band for whom a standalone song is but a starting line.

    Cut Copy’s Bundle, however, is a macro-thinking project, an “open call for exploration.”

    The Australian electro-rockers’ new music video itself—artfully conceived and directed by Masa Kawmura, Qanta Shimizu and Aramique Krauthamer—is a stop-motion epic poem that follows tiny, yellow humanoids on their journey through an alley dumpster out to the ocean. For scale, paperclips become flagpoles. It’s a meticulous, compelling music video.

    The Bundle comes with the “We Are Explorers” music video, 3-D printing and stop-motion instructions, and 22 printable figurines. The hook is that fans set map out and arrange their own version of the story. It’s a beautiful, open-sourced idea, but as of Tuesday, a Twitter search of the accompanying hashtag, #WeAreExplorers, only turns up excitement about the original video, not any fan-made addendums. The thing may be a guided tutorial into stop-motion animation and 3-D printing, but full-scale participation requires a great deal of work.

    Creatively, the BitTorrent Bundle venture is a thriving whole. The standalone camps of Bundles are gorgeously arranged and bleed into each other. Next to the “We Are Explorers” bundle, for example, is a Bundle for Drafthouse Films’ award-winning documentary about Indonesian death squads, The Act of Killing, which supplements the requisite trailer with what is tantamount to DVD extras like director’s commentary and cast interviews.

    Sometimes the best things really are free.

    Screengrab Explorers3D/Facebook


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    Rightfully appalled by the handwringing from would-be cultural gatekeepers at the New York Times and Salon over a recent deluge of independently produced movies, Kentucker Audley has assembled a sardonic Change.org petition par excellence, tacitly endorsed by both peevish publications: “Stop Making Indie Films.”

    “We believe if we can convince enough aspiring filmmakers to give up on their dreams, the industry will become solvent again,” Audley writes, pointedly summarizing the dismissive, tone-deaf opinions offered by the NYT’s Manohla Dargis and Salon’s Beanie Barns—a sort of elitism paralleled in the literary world, where editors are needlessly freaking out over the glut of books made available through self-publishing, paranoid about diluting the good stuff.

    Film critics and film audiences will no longer be overwhelmed by the glut of mediocre indie productions, while the truly inspired and talented filmmakers will easily be discovered and embraced, able to receive the wide acclaim & financial gain they deserve. Distributors, theater owners, tastemakers, as well as audiences and critics, will delight in having far fewer films to choose from.

    Indie filmmakers “with commercial promise,” however, are urged not to sign: “This list is made for the mediocre filmmakers who would otherwise be clogging up the indie arteries with undercooked, half-assed or nobudge (sic) productions. This includes anything small scale, anything personal, of course all mumblecore, and most other work with developing visions. (In other words, if you don't already have your artistry perfected, please sign up.)”

    The comments left by signatories are no less acid than Audley’s: “My needs and desires as an artist are not as important as the solvency of the film industry,” wrote Peter Rinaldi. “It's time to sacrifice for the greater good.” Omar Rodriguez went a step further: “Not only will I throw in the towel with movies, I will stop telling stories altogether,” he pledged.

    “As a fictitious space dwarf once said, ‘Do or do not. There is no try,’” remarked Samuel B. Prime. “Same goes for indie filmmakers. Make a perfect, nuanced, marketable feature or, well, please keep it to yourself (read: fuck off).”

    So, will you lend your name to the noble cause? Or are you one of those weirdos who thinks aspiring screenwriters, directors, and actors should practice their craft as much as they like? The fate of Hollywood almost certainly hangs in the balance. 

    Photo by m kasahara/Flickr


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    As promotion for IFC’s Independent Spirit Awards on March 1, host Patton Oswalt is touting an amazing invention: The Indie-izer, a device that magically turns blockbusters into mumblecore films.

    With help from the cast of 5-Second Films, the Indie-izer takes any “big-budget, Hollywood crowd-pleasing blockbuster and turns it into a micro-budgeted mumblecore digital download.” With this innovative movie magic, Monsters University, The Hobbit, and The Lone Ranger are re-rendered as heady, dialogue-heavy mope fests about coddled adults.

    Why stop at just those three, though? We’d love to see Gravity go through the Indie-izer. It's basically already a mumblecore film (tagline: in space, no one can hear your heavy sigh). Or maybe The Matrix (the protagonist can’t choose between the red or blue pill, or the two girls he’s casually dating) and Independence Day (the invading aliens kill themselves after sitting through the main character’s improv set).

    H/T Uproxx | Screengrab via Film Independent/YouTube


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    No doubt, the three worst songs of the last 30 years are Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping,” Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” and anything that’s been released by Avicii. It makes sense that someone on the Internet’s combined the three into 4:26 of absolute sonic hell.

    That someone’s known on YouTube as NilsOfficial, and he’s surely not got our best interests in mind. Last week, he published a video that mashes up the three aforementioned entities with a collection of clips that find black TV characters—Turk from Scrubs, Will Smith’s character from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air—dancing like idiots to this horrible, horrible cutup. 

    At some point later in the song, we’re even subjected to a dancing scene from John Travolta’s Michael.

    And one from Saturday Night Fever

    Many are hailing it as Rick Astley’s 2014 comeback—more 161,000 people have watched the clip so far. We’d rather endure a Rickroll. 

    Photo via Rick Astley/Facebook


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    When it comes to attracting audiences, actor Russell Crowe sets his aim pretty high. He wants Pope Francis I to see his latest movie Noah.

    The film, starring Crowe in the title role, tells the story of the famous Biblical figure who corralled two of every animal aboard an ark in order to preserve life after the Great Flood. The film is scheduled to be released March 28.

    On Feb. 22, Crowe tweeted a request for the head of the Catholic Church to see the film.

    In the subsequent days, Crowe continued to flood @Pontifex with requests.

    Unfortunately for Crowe, there might not be a chance that Pope Francis I will ever see Noahor any other movie, for that matter.

    “The Holy Father does not see films, and will not be seeing this one,” a representative for the pontiff said in a statement after receiving an invitation to watch the Harvey Weinstein film Philomena.

    Talk about a life of sacrifice: Imagine spending an entire lifetime without ever laying eyes on such masterpieces as Idiocracy or Office Space.

    Perhaps Crowe should shift his focus and beg us to see his movie.

    H/T MovieFix / Photo via JeffFran/Flickr


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    It's a sad day indeed for fans of experimental Twitter accounts and homoerotic action thrillers alike: The genius who was screening Top Gun frame by frame via the handle @555uhz has been silenced by a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice from Paramount Pictures.

    “No one is authorized to copy, reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use Top Gun without the express written permission of Paramount,” the filing states.

    Our reaction:

    We were not even halfway through the Tom Cruise blockbuster’s running time when Twitter judged this copyright complaint legitimate and grounded the offending account. Paramount either believed that chronological JPG screengrabs from their movie (posted at half-hour intervals) were more entertaining than the movie itself, or they just don’t want anyone without a Netflix account to find out that Goose dies. 

    Meanwhile, as with every relatively well-known film released in the last 40 years, you can still watch Top Gun illegally online (as a simple search on TubePlus.me shows). But, as we’re all aware, Internet gimmicks that repurpose your intellectual property and cast it in a surprising light—introducing it to potential new fans in the process—are infinitely more competitive and damaging to one’s bottom line than direct piracy. Every single time. 

    To @555uhz, whoever you were: goodnight, sweet pilot. And squadrons of F-16s sing thee to thy rest. 

    H/T TorrentFreak | Photo by Max Slowik/Flickr


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    The six-second video app Vine has become an experimental platform for comedy, and making “Vine stars” out of certain users. Where does it go from here? This summer, you’ll be seeing more than just previews in movie theaters. Vine will be wrapped around the big screen.

    Twitter, which owns Vine, and National CineMedia have paired up to bring Vine videos and entertainment tweets to roughly 20,000 theaters affiliated with NCM, an in-theater advertising company. This partnership will include a 60-second weekly entertainment show, which will apparently invite theater-goers to interact with the discussion via Twitter. In a statement about the partnership, Cliff Marks, NCM’s president of sales and marketing, acknowledged Twitter’s role in distributing film news and trends:

    “Twitter has become an amazing barometer of movie trends, and this new show will take theater audiences beyond the red-carpet for an original look inside the world of movies.”

    A viewer’s tweets could even end up on a big-screen stream, which points to Twitter’s influence and presence beyond smartphones and tablets. Last fall, Regal Cinemas, one of NCM’s advertising partners, released clips from popular Vine star Jason Nash, which could point to collaborations and previews to come. It also boosted Regal Cinema’s social media presence on YouTube and Twitter.

    Twitter and NCM are currently looking for sponsors for the venture, and brands to shape the project. Whereas movie screens once advised viewers to turn off their phones, a new era of disruption and engagement is suggesting otherwise.

    Photo via Sarah_Ackerman/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

     


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    HBO’s densely layered True Detective has brought out the Internet sleuths in all of us, and now a redditor may have cracked the case wide open, albeit by non-traditional means: there’s a trove of tantalizing on-set photographs to be found in the Instagram accounts of the show’s crew and producers, some of which reveal key details about the final episodes.

    Don’t care about probable spoilers? Then read on.

    First off, a glimpse of an interior that suggests Woody Harrelson’s Marty Hart, after leaving the state police force, set up shop as a private investigator.


    We’re digging this creepy barn, which wouldn’t look out of place in an abandoned German theme park. Bad things have happened here, no doubt.


    Looks like we’ll explore at least one of the abandoned religious schools we heard about in the last episode.


    The inevitable cemetery. Will someone die? Is someone already dead? (Yes and yes.)


    Hey, a corpse! And the telltale word “Carcosa” scrawled on a wall.


    The kind of house we’ve all had nightmares about:


    Finally, you’ve got this truly chilling… um, altar of bones? Good to know that the series will end on a macabre note.

     

    These images may not answer the series’ biggest questions, but they ought to help you appear unsurprised at the twists and turns of the closing act. Then, as your friend turns to you in shock, you can smile and say you saw it coming.

    Photo via True Detective on Instagram


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    If you’re of a certain age, you likely remembering watching Sesame Street or Pee-Wee’s Playhouse as a kid, but do you remember the music? Philip Glass and Herbie Hancock provided music for Sesame Street, and the Residents soundtracked Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. In hindsight, these (possibly) missed connections are key to the shows’ histories, and they prove just how bonkers children’s programming could be.

    Mike Haley, a musician and host of the experimental music podcast Tabs Out, recently created a Tumblr devoted to this strange intersection of pop culture. Experimental Music on Children’s TV (EMOCT) documents the soundtracking and musical guests of shows like Reading RainbowMister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and 3-2-1 Contact, via YouTube clips.

    Appropriately, Haley’s Tumblr was partially inspired by his own daughter, who’s three years old.

    “She enjoys messing around with some of my electronics, turning knobs and making weird sounds,” he says. “Plus, I usually have tapes that I get for Tabs Out playing all day, so bizarre sounds are pretty normal to her. She really dug the Bruce Haack clip from Mr. Rogers and would dance around and what not like the kids in the video.

    “About a week ago, I dug around, seeing what else was out there that was similar and was sorta amazed at all the stuff I was finding. I just sorta thought this would make for a pretty sweet blog. Got the Tumblr, put up a handful of them, told some friends. Figured I would do it for a week or two, then it would run it's course and be done with. But the more I looked, the more I found.”

    Fred Rogers’s button-up appearance certainly betrayed his underground music cred. Electronic music pioneer Bruce Haack was featured on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in 1968, and Rogers later played a Roland synthesizer on the show.

    Jim Henson's pre-Muppet Show short films were known for their experimental narratives, and he was one of the most well-known figures adding that experimentation to children's programming. Vice noted his work with Raymond Scott, an experimental musician who was at one time a composer for Looney Tunes. They collaborated on "Wheels That Go," a 1967 short, which is featured on EMOCT. 

    “There definitely seems to be less modern examples, but there are some,” Haley says. “There's a public access show called Chic-A-Go-Go that is like a goldmine for musical performances. Yo Gabba Gabba! has some pretty cool stuff, but nothing like some of these clips with artists explaining synthesizers and stuff like that from the ‘80s.”

    While experimental music has fallen off in children’s shows, at least we have digital proof of that one time Mr. Wizard got weird, and the Muppet Babies went avant garde.

    Screengrab via yogabbagabba/YouTube


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    Karen Gravano, a reality television star and daughter of New York mobster and informant Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, is suing the makers of Grand Theft Auto V for $40 million. 

    Gravano claims her “image and life story” was used by developers Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar Games in the game without her permission, reports the New York Daily News.

    A former star of the VH1 reality show Mob Wives, Gravano says the GTA character Antonia Bottino is based on her life. You can check out Bottino here:

    In the game, Bottino’s mob boss dad becomes an informant and forbids her from starring in a reality television show called “Wise Bitches.” Sounds familiar.

    Here’s Gravano being interviewed in New York:

    Rockstar and Take-Two have refused to comment on the matter. 

    Gravano is seeking $20 million in compensation and $20 million in punitive damages, which is really weird because anyone who has seen her on television knows she doesn’t usually pick outrageous and unwinnable fights just for attention. 

    Oh wait.

    Photo via New York Daily News | H/T GamePolitics


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    You don't have to try very hard to get me to admit that Instagram is not my favorite thing in the world. However, this promotional collage of Muppet-themed photographs is too cute for even a cynic like me to resist. 

    Not everything in The Muppets' Instagram feed feels like a natural fit. Blatant advertisements for the upcoming Muppets Most Wanted, which opens in theatres March 21, are rife. 

    But smack-dab in the middle of the marketing fluff, we have endearing glimpses of the Muppets, dressed in the sepia tones of Instagram’s filters, at their most vulnerable.

    And their most mundane: 

     

    Sorta.

    Photo via Tireball


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    As the 2014 Oscars approach on Sunday, the Internet will be spending a lot of time dissecting the merits of the nominated films, the sad plight of an Oscar-less Leonardo DiCaprio, and the Academy's history of oversights.

    Need a bit of nostalgia to break up the deluge of thinkpieces? Flavorwire offered up a supercut of this new year’s best actor and actress nominees in their earliest roles.

    Did you remember Jennifer Lawrence was on the Bill Engvall Show, or that Jonah Hill was in that awful movie Click? What about when Sandra Bullock was in Love Potion No. 9? Can they give retroactive Oscars? Because DiCaprio needs one for Critters 3.

    If anything, this montage serves to highlight all the great films Bruce Dern has appeared in, and to alert the world to Cate Blanchett in a commercial for Tim Tam, an Australian chocolate biscuit.

    Screengrab via Flavorwire/Vimeo

     


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    Apart from a GIF out of The Walking Dead presented as an image from an actual MRI scan, the most annoyingly persistent Tumblr hoax concerns Back to the Future trivia. In the middle of the trilogy, Marty McFly time-travels 30 years forward in a tricked-out Delorean. But on what date does he arrive? According to Photoshop, any day you care to name.

    Some version of the frame above, adjusted to reflect the current date, is daily reblogged by hundreds of users, often accompanied by a complaint to the effect that hoverboards have not yet been invented. In fact, McFly’s temporal destination was October 21, 2015—almost two years from now—so who keeps creating and spreading the fake stills? 

    Amazingly, most of this confusion may be the work of one dedicated sadist. “Today is the Day Marty McFly Went to the Future” is a Tumblr whose sole purpose is to generate a Photoshopped image of the Delorean’s familiar display panel for every single day on the calendar. Despite the posts’ suspicious provenance, people fall for them every time.

    The endless, repetitive cycle of forgetting, the frustrated attempts to explain what’s really going on—it all starts to seem like another film entirely. Will this accursed day ever end?

    H/T @evanengel | Photo by Tim Evanson/Flickr


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    By dropping her own self-titled record last year with no promotion, an album recorded entirely in secret, Beyoncé didn’t just break the Internet. She broke our ability to release music. On Tuesday, Coldplay posted the video for “Midnight” to its Facebook page—a woozy, minimalist ballad that’s unlike anything the band’s ever put out before.

    Is it just a one-off track or a band headed in an entirely new direction? The Internet was left to wonder, as Chris Martin and company didn’t provide an explanation for its release.

    Because of the surprise nature of the track, the media immediately branded it “pulling a Beyoncé,” which is the most painful sounding phrase of the year. With no disrespect to Ms. Carter, Beyoncé didn’t invent the “no-press” strategy and to give her credit for it completely ignores the entire musical context of her act. Beyonce wasn’t the first to release a surprise album; she wasn’t even the first person to do so in 2013. Last January, David Bowie celebrated his birthday by giving his fans the best possible present: His first album in a decade, The Next Day.

    The Magic 8-Ball indicates that Beyoncé Knowles was likely paying attention: “You may rely on it.”

    In March of 2013, Beyoncé previewed “Bow Down,” her first track in what was promised to be a forthcoming album, but the track failed to catch on with her audience, blasted for being “anti-feminist.” Beyoncé has long discussed her wish for more role models for young women, saying that she hopes to give girls interested in music someone to aspire to be. Critics felt that the lyrical content “Bow Down” was hypocritical given that desire. (Sample lyric: “You dreamt of being in my world/ Don’t forget it, don’t forget it/ Respect that, Bow down b---ches.”)

    In an essay for the Washington Post, columnist Rahiel Tesfamariam called the track from the self-avowed feminist “anything but empowering.” “It promotes female subordination and division,” Tesfamariam wrote. “The lyrics are in direct contrast to past statements she has made about wanting to inspire other women to enter and be successful in the music industry.”

    After the backlash, reports indicate that Beyoncé’s album was set to be pushed back, but instead it just disappeared. What changed between March and last December, when her surprise album dropped? Beyonce got smarter about promoting her material.

    Throughout her career, Ms. Knowles has seamlessly borrowed from other musicians and artists, famously adapting Bob Fosse’s “Mexican Breakfast” dance routine for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Although critics have chided her for skewing too close to plagiarism, Beyoncé has gotten better at transforming her influences as she matures as an artist. What makes Beyoncé’s “Countdown” such a delight is the way it makes references to Audrey Hepburn’s “Funny Face” to creating something fresh and innovative, a true moment in music history.

    That’s exactly what made BEYONCE such a powerful statement—the fact that her work didn’t emerge in a vacuum. Beyonce Knowles used the inspiration of her heroes, those she looked up to as a young girl, to further change the way we make music, simply by liberating herself from the backlash circle jerk. Bowie might have been thinking about The Next Day, but Beyonce was focused on the next step forward.

    Like Beyonce, Coldplay’s “Midnight” is the sound of a band transformed by its influences, one arguably better than ever. I’m an avowed Coldplay non-fan. I like Chris Martin’s music best when he sounds the least like Bono, the man he’s been intent on imitating his entire career. Coldplay is a band comprised entirely of influences, from U2 and Radiohead to Joe Satriani, whose melody Martin reportedly cribbed for “Viva La Vida.”

    But their best moments show them doing something more than copying the greats. “Lost,” off Viva La Vida, takes its trademark Brian Eno production and makes it simultaneously dance-ready and emotionally resonant. “Princess of China,” the band’s collaboration with Rihanna, is objectively not good—with some of the most openly nonsensical lyrics in recent memory. However, “Princess of China” is also delightfully bonkers, a band finally unafraid to do something different, even if it means completely alienating its fanbase. It’s ballsy and thrilling, words impossible to muster about anything on X&Y, an album best described as “cradle rock.”

    “Midnight” is a lot like “Princess of China” in that it completely breaks from the Coldplay template. More than anything, “Midnight” sounds like a Bon Iver song, all atmospherics and washed-out vocals. It’s also, by far, the best thing they’ve ever done, a moment that doesn’t need explanation. Some artists, like Lady Gaga, have to constantly remind you how great their music is, using press junkets to will us into loving their music. In an Internet media cycle dominated by hyperbolic hustle, the surprise release is a reminder that great music speaks for itself.

    However, the fact that Beyonce didn’t come up with the strategy all on her own shouldn’t be a strike against her. It’s just another reminder of what makes her an icon. In her music, Ms. Knowles sings that about the rising tide that lifts all boats, a culture in which we inspire greatness in each other. David Bowie once sang that we can be heroes. Beyonce was clearly listening. You may rely on it.

    Photo by niteprowl3r/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III


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