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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    BY DAN STASIEWSKI

    Okay, marshmallows. Here’s the deal. The Veronica Mars movie is everything we hoped it would be. There are nods to our favorite moments from the show. There’s that turbulent Logan love story. And of course, there’s that oh-so-snappy Rob Thomas dialogue that made the show a fan favorite.

    The question here isn’t whether Veronica Mars is just a movie for us fans who donated dollars to the Kickstarter campaign that funded it in the first place, though. The real test is whether Veronica Mars could succeed where so many other TV series to film adaptations have failed.

    It does.

    Veronica Mars is a solid, snappy mystery that could earn the former teenage detective as many new fans as she already has old ones. Why? For pretty much the same reason the show was a success in the first place: Veronica Mars is now and forever will be one of the great female characters in our popular culture.

    The film picks up nine years after the series ended, with Veronica Mars, a Stanford grad with a law degree, applying for her first big girl job as a New York lawyer. She’s with her college sweetheart Piz (Chris Lowell) and she’s given up all that sleuthing because, well, it was rather unhealthy for her.

    But just as things are looking up, Veronica’s ex-boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is once again accused of murder. This time it’s his pop star girlfriend. It doesn’t take long for Ms. Mars to hear those words once again, “Veronica, I need your help.”

    Echolls, who still lives in Neptune, Calif., enlists Veronica to vet the legions of wanna-be celebrity attorneys who are trying to represent him. Veronica, however, realizes quickly that she’s not going to be able to stay away from the mystery around who really killed Echolls’ girlfriend. Soon she’s back to her old ways.

    Of course, this doesn’t sit well with her private detective father (Enrico Colantoni), who just wants Veronica to live the successful life he always wanted for her. And her boyfriend doesn’t like the idea of her hanging out with her ex. But when there’s a case to be solved, even the people closest to Veronica won’t be able to stop her from doing the exact thing she knows she should do: Going back to the world of private investigation.

    There’s a subplot in the movie as well, one regarding an increasing amount of corruption among the Neptune elite. If there’s one flaw in Veronica Mars as a stand alone film, it’s the incompleteness of this story. But coming from the perspective of a multimedia experience, it may be one of the film’s biggest assets.

    Veronica Mars really isn’t intended to be a film in and of itself. Director and creator Rob Thomas acknowledges this when he admits he’s writing a Veronica Mars book. As a transmedia experience, one initiated by the fans but orchestrated by a dedicated group of artists, Veronica Mars may very well be a masterpiece.

    Still, the film achieves something very few TV-to-film continuations do: It tells a story self-contained enough to keep even outsiders watching. Unlike Sex and the City or The X-Files or about 80 percent of the Star Trek movies, Veronica Mars keeps the story simple, but not in an episodic TV sense. Instead, Thomas is smart enough to model it on film noir stories of the 40s and 50s with its dark characters, conflicted hero and a twisty little plot.

    The film is character and story sharp for sure, which makes up for the times it’s visually dull. Thomas isn’t a motion picture director. That’s immediately apparent. But given that he’s probably the only person on the planet who could direct these returning actors in these established roles, there’s likely more risk in cinematic overindulgence than in staying in a comfort zone.

    Really, that’s what makes the film impressive. It’s also not afraid to admit when it’s making a movie for its fans. Most TV series that become movies try to find a balance between the old and the new, often awkwardly. They embrace cinema badly. Veronica Mars seems refreshingly honest in its intentions to be a fan-first movie. And its that honesty that makes the film open for any audience.

    After all, the greatest thing this film has for both fans and non-fans is Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars. Her emotional journey back to the world of private investigating and potentially back into the arms of her ex is actually stronger and more realistic than her series arcs. Having the sassy, super-smart female detective take center stage is essential. Maybe if there’s a Veronica Mars 2, Thomas can be a little more visually adventurous. Until then, this film achieves what it wants and needs to achieve: Re-introducing Ms. Mars to the world. 

    Dan Stasiewski is a chronic cinephile and an unapologetic fan of high school dramas on screens big and small. You can find his work at The Film Chair, where he is the editor-in-chief. This article originally appeared on The Film Chair and is reprinted here with permission. 

    Photo via TheVeronicaMarsMovie/Facebook


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    I love food. I also love James Deen. So by the transitive property (or something), I should love Deen’s newest Wood Rocket webseries (NSFW), “James Deen Loves Food.”

    But if the latest episode of Deen’s series is any indication, the title seems like a misnomer. Because James Deen "loves" food the way an emotionally abusive person "loves" his partner: If he truly loved it, he would never treat it the way he does. 

    In the latest episode of “James Deen Loves Food,” James Deen creates his own sick, twisted, Frankenstein-esque version of handmade donuts. The “bronuts” or “deenuts,” as he calls them, are made using Doritos, beer, and—horror of horrors—Sriracha sauce as ingredients.

    The result is the culinary equivalent of extreme BDSM torture porn, minus the element of pleasure. You can check out the (vaguely NSFW) video here, if you dare:


    The experience of watching James Deen sprinkle cheesy, chemically-flavored Dorito dust on a perfectly innocent glazed donut is a bit difficult to describe. On the one hand, you kinda want to pull a Chris Crocker and start tearfully screaming, “For the love of God, leave the donuts alone! Leave them alone!” On the other hand, it’s James Deen shirtless, so seeing him defile a pastry in such a fashion makes you feel both repulsed and turned-on, like watching a Miley Cyrus music video or coming across an NSFW photo of your cousin on Tinder. Either way, it’s an emotional roller coaster ride.

    The Daily Dot has reached out to Deen for comment, and we’ll update if we receive a response:

    H/T First We Feast | Screengrab via Wood Rocket/YouTube

     


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    "Someday I'll be the first to get a Ph. D in 'Undeclared'," Randall Munroe once wrote in his beloved webcomic xkcd.

    But his wide-ranging knowledge of all things scientific, technological, and human has served him well on his side blog, "What If?" And now it's garnered him a book deal. Munroe announced on Wednesday that fans of his smart, whimsical science blog can now read in print form such pressing questions as:

    Could you propel your ship to speeds exceeding escape velocity by hitting golf balls in the other direction?

    Answer: Yes, but only if Tiger Woods were swinging, and only if the bag of golfballs he had to hit were twice as large as the sun.

    But they'll also get Munroe's answers to new, never-before-published questions that he "wanted to spend a little more time on." Given the amount of time he spends on the answers to the blogs he writes now, we can't wait to see what "a little more" looks like.

    It's been almost four years since Munroe published xkcd: Volume 0, a not-for-profit print collection of the massively popular webcomic. Though there are no plans on the horizon to produce a new xkcd collection, the book version of What If is out in September. Fans can already pre-order the book:

    Caption: "The publisher had some issues with my proposal to print an anti-matter edition."

     

    Photo via medigirol/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

     


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    It may seem difficult to believe, but the Bechdel Test has been around for almost 30 years.

    Since its first appearance in Alison Bechdel’s Dykes To Watch Out For comic in 1985, the concept of the Bechdel Test has permeated pop culture criticism as an example of the bare minimum requirement for female representation in cinema. Sadly, it often feels like nothing has changed since then, with women still only making up 30 percent of speaking roles in mainstream movies, and 15 percent of protagonists.

    The latest proactive campaign for onscreen diversity is the Rep Test, which aims beyond the Bechdel Test’s minimal goals of two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.

    Put together by the Representation Project, the Rep Test will be used as a media literacy tool in thousands of schools. It was launched with an open letter in the Los Angeles Times.

    The test includes questions such as “Does the movie avoid celebrating offensive racial, ethnic, and cultural stereotypes?" and "Does the film avoid glorifying violent men?" with each positive answer being awarded one point, plus a bonus if the protagonist is a woman, an LGBT person, or a person with disabilities.

    We used the test to rate a couple of recent Hollywood success stories, and while The Avengers and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy both end up with an abysmal D grade (1-3 points out of a possible 27), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire scrapes through with either an A (11+ points) or a B, depending on whether you interpret Peeta and Katniss as characters with disabilities. Marvel’s “girl movie” Thor manages a C, mostly down to its three whole female characters (a practically unheard-of achievement in the superhero movie genre) and the presence of Idris Elba in a role that avoids racial stereotyping.

    The obvious caveat is that this kind of by-the-numbers test is a teaching tool, rather than a checklist for what movies must achieve if they want to avoid being a racist, misogynist pile of crap. There are plenty of very sensitively-written movies that would achieve a low grade on the Rep Test purely because their cast only includes a couple of people, and there are always shades of grey when attempting to gauge the overall atmosphere of a movie.

    When looking at summer blockbusters (which typically do equally well with men and women, but are often derided by critics for failing to represent anyone but straight, white, male heroes), it may come as a surprise to learn that the Joss Whedon-directed Avengers actually gets a lower score on the Rep Test than Star Trek Into Darkness, which inspired backlash from fans thanks to its shoddy representation of female characters.

    This kind of result is the easiest argument against relying on metrics like the Rep Test, but you shouldn’t let that distract you from the main point, which is that pretty much every mainstream movie is a disaster zone when it comes to representing a realistic variety of human beings. It’s a waste of time to concentrate on whether The Avengers deserves a C or a D, when as a big-budget movie with a central cast of six or seven characters, it should be aiming for an A.

    In Sweden, cinemas are beginning to introduce an MPAA-style rating system to highlight which movies include a reasonable portrayal of female characters. A similar system for U.S. cinema still seems like kind of a pipe dream, but in the meantime, hopefully the Rep Test will have some impact in schools across the country.


    Photo via sirdeepcookie/Tumblr


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    On Mondays, as I return to slave away for my newsoverlords, I find myself more easily distracted by the wonders of the Internet. And there is no more wonderful sidetrack than taking part in Nintendo games of old. 

    To satisfy the nostalgic urge for Super Nintendo classics, you can now play Donkey Kong Country from the comfort of your workstation.

    You’ll find it here, on NESBox.com.


     

    While the transition of controls from the SNES gamepad to the keyboard is less than comfortable, the game is still extremely fun. And with the new port, you can play others in multiplayer games, and also save it. Usefully, it also mutes the sound when you change tabs, just in case there is an eagle-eyed boss on the prowl while you search for Kong’s bananas.

    The game, one of the most graphically impressive of its era and the second-most-popular SNES game ever, holds up well in 2014. 

    Donkey Kong Country is not the only classic game to reappear on the Internet as a port later on. With a Chrome extension, you can sample the wonderfully retro and educational Oregon Trail and die of dysentery, or keep it simple with Super Mario Bros


     

    Whatever you choose, may your Monday be fun, filled with SNES games, and totally free from productivity.


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    Reddit’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) series can yield interesting cultural artifacts, and it can also quickly devolve into a virtual trainwreck. Whatever the outcome, the question-and-answer thread has become one of the most popular forums on Reddit. However, the design and readability of the AMA can leave you cross-eyed.

    Dan Drabik, a developer at Kickstarter, decided to do something about this, and created Interviewly, a site that compiles AMAs into readable, easy-to-follow interviews. He explained AMAs in particular suffered from Reddit’s discussion thread format, which can be beneficial for other posts.

    “Reddit is great for a lot of things,” Drabik says. “Most of its posts have a focus on a singular item (such as an image or a link), and a discussion section exists if you want to dive further in. Reddit AMAs are a little bit different in that the discussion is the primary focus. Furthermore, the answers of one user (the post creator) are the most relevant details, far outweighing anything else. The general Reddit structure is not set up for this.”

     

    Drabik started by compiling interviews with the most well-known people, including Aaron Paul, Bill Nye, Marina Abramovic, and Barack Obama. The interview categories are split into film/TV, music, authors, sports, tech, politics, and “other,” though there’s currently no search function if you want to find a specific interview. Drabik says the site’s primary function is to make sense out of the format, and highlight the subject’s answers, which often get lost in the threads of text. This AMA with Barrett Brown from 2010, when he was an advisor to atheist Democratic congressional candidate Wynne LeGrow, is especially enlightening four years later.

    “Interviewly looks to take that content and make it more visually appealing and readable,” Drabik adds. “We've parsed out the questions and answers, sorted them in chronological order, added images and a category, and styled the whole thing into a nice little package.”

    Indeed, it's easier on the eyes, and keeps Reddit’s specific “language” intact, while bringing the interviews to a bigger audience. For what it’s worth, the site is being embraced on Reddit.

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


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    The mystery of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has now officially reached a fevered pitch. As the search for the plane expands, the Internet has now officially launched its own investigation… led by one Courtney Love Cobain.

    The musician and newly-minted YouTube star took to Twitter and Facebook late last night, to offer her own theory on the missing plane, using crowdsourced satellite images and some intel she may have gleaned from Reddit.

    When she was met with skepticism, she stood her ground with an annotated screenshot of what might be the plane, and an oil slick. 

    Social media then exploded with dream scenarios in which CNN and AP interviewed Love after she discovered the missing plane. 

    Someone please put her in charge of this investigation.

    Photo via Bruno_VZ/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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    Everywhere you looked during the South By Southwest Music festival, there was a corresponding hashtag—even in the sky.

    “A newcomer to SXSW might well believe that the whole thing was created to induce social-media marketing.” observed Jon Pareles in the New York Times.

    From Samsung’s #PowerUp phone-battery swapping to the #boldomissions for Lady Gaga’s s puke-laden performance, there was no shortage of weirdness and innovation in Austin, and Twitter powered the conversation.

    We’ve been taking it all in with our friends at Deep Eddy, and couldn’t be more in awe of this year’s craziest moments. Here are our top seven #SXSWins from the music fest.

    Don’t forget you can also check out our complete selections at sxswinsandfails.tumblr.com.

    1) Pi in the sky

    It’s hard to beat the clever pun from AirSign, a Florida aerial advertising company. To commemorate Pi Day, the company spelled out the first part of π using five different planes, stretching hundreds of miles in the sky, captivating curious onlookers. The accompanying hashtag, #PiInTheSky, trended on Twitter.


    Photo by Austin Powell

    2) Samsung Galaxy Concert Series

    The Samsung Galaxy Concert Series arguably stole the show at SXSW. The Kanye West and Jay-Z show was by far one of the most anticipated events of the entire festival. Fans were lining up at 2am the night before the show just to be one of the 600 Galaxy phone owners to win a ticket. The duo didn’t disappoint, playing 36 songs over the course of the near two-hour event. And who can object to Kanye’s awesome leather kilt? Samsung also brought in the Broken Bells and Cut Copy.  

    3) Ray Ban’s free haircuts

    Brands give away truck loads of free stuff at SXSW in hopes that you might remember them the next time you’re at the store. But it’s hard to beat Ray Ban’s approach to SXSW swag: It gave away free haircuts for all comers. It’s going to be hard not to talk about the company when you head home to family and friends with a new look.    

    4) Hotels.com stands in line for you

    Even the most elite of the VIPs were confronted with lines galore this SXSW. But Hotels.com made sure your time in the human gridlock wasn’t wasted. Whether you needed that brat from the trailer a few blocks away, a quick beer, a bio break, or to run charge your dying phone at one of the many stations, #skiptheline waiters came running and held your spot in line, asking for nothing in return.

    5) Rachael Ray does it again

    Celebrity chef Rachael Ray drew a packed house at Stubbs BBQ for her seventh annual Feedback Party. Even after making our all-time list, she managed to one-up herself once again. Featuring a killer lineup that included CeeLo Green, Blondie, Allen Stone, the Wild Feathers and local favorite Bob Schneider, there was a little something for everyone to rock to. Above all else, the whiskey-soaked chicken wings made the notoriously long lines well worth it. Ray’s hospitality earned her “Honorary Citizen of Austin” status from Mayor Lee Leffingwell.

    6) Uber All Access

    Uber saved the day again for those lucky enough to snag a coveted UberX and ride for free all around town. The car-share company upped the game this year with #UberALLACCESS, launching flash rewards like Bentley rides, “Cash Cash Cab’s” rides (some complete with guest celebrities), and access to private shows, movie premieres, and drool-worthy tastings. It was a classy way to make a splash at SXSW, and fans rewarded them with much love on Twitter and beyond.

    7) Vevo brings the iTunes Festival on home

    While attendees in Austin were tweeting live updates from the shows across our fair city, Vevo was hard at work streaming every single iTunes Festival performance to audiences around the world. Just before the festival began, Vevo announced a partnership with Apple to livestream each show to Apple devices. It’s a rare chance for those who couldn’t attend the festival to enjoy the action, from Soundgarden to Kendrick Lamar and Willie Nelson For those of you who weren’t at SXSW and couldn’t catch the livestream, you can still watch the recordings on Vevo. Well played, Vevo, well played.

    With over 150 pouring stations around town during SXSW, Deep Eddy Vodka showed some classic Austin hospitality. After all, good old-fashioned vodka always makes for a #SXSWin.

    Photo via WireImage/Samsung


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    On a recent Valentine’s Day episode of their podcast, NYC comedians Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson discussed the eternal question of what happened last night, and distilled the daunting task of remembering details of a sexual encounter into one universal truth:

    “Sometimes after sex you can feel that phantom dick in you.”

    Welcome to Guys We Fucked.

    The weekly show, hosted by podcast think tank Stand Up NY Labs, debuted in December on Soundcloud, where it’s racked up more than 220,000 followers in just four months. iTunes won’t list the show in its store; Fisher and Hutchinson have never received an official reason why, but it might be “the way we used the word fuck. It’s not like, ‘What the fuck?’ It’s the actual act of fucking.”

    Indeed, the show’s title is literal: Fisher and Hutchinson, who often perform comedy as Sorry About Last Night, bring in men they’ve slept with and have an honest, witty talk about sex and relationships. They’ve billed it as an “anti-slut-shaming podcast,” in which they’re free to discuss the pros and cons of period sex, and how people “underestimate a good fingering,” but also get the man’s view of sex and relationships, which is refreshing, and sometimes surprising.

    Fisher explains they wanted to do something that was “helpful to people, but funny and entertaining, not precious and pretentious the way self-help can be. So it’s like modern self-exploration.”

    She adds that this podcast is coming at the perfect time, in terms of elevating dialogue about sex-positivity online. Since they’ve started getting press for the show, they’ve naturally started getting more negative comments.

    “If we put out this podcast and everyone was like, ‘Yeah, I agree with them.’ That would be wonderful, but then there wouldn't really be a need for the podcast. I think when you put something out, and it’s very much 50-50, and some people are like, ‘Yes, yes yes,’ and some people are like, ‘You guys are sluts,’ then there’s so much room for education and progress.”

    The culture around “slut-shaming” has grown with online anonymity. Though some might argue the word came be reclaimed, Guys We Fucked is attempting to change the word’s weight.

    “I don’t think the word slut has anything positive about it,” Hutchinson says, “and so by forcing this issue, we’re giving the word a little less power. And when you’re talking about sex, I don’t think there should be that vocabulary to put people down and shame them and make them feel bad.”

    The Internet has always functioned as a confessional, but there’s a tangible power in owning your past and channeling that into realistic view of sex, which is often lacking from Internet spaces. On one episode, Fisher and Hutchinson read a listener comment from a woman in New Delhi, who said the show made her feel more comfortable with sex. In future episodes, Hutchinson says they hope to bring sex workers on the show.

    Apps like Secret and Whisper are now being used as outlets for anonymous expressions of love and sex, not all of it positive, but the ladies see it all as part of a larger shift toward genuine expression online.

    “So many of our listeners feel weight lifted off their shoulders because they’ve made similar mistakes or admitted similar things to us,” Hutchinson says, “and they hear somebody else be honest about the mistakes they’ve made, and it’s inspiring. I think being honest about your mistakes is important.”

    “I think it’s a logical step for standup comedians,” Fisher adds, “and I think that’s what’s attractive about a lot of standup comedy. In the past couple years, it’s gone from punchline, joke to, ‘This is a story about something crazy that happened.’ I think we’re just at a time in our culture where we’re ready to be more honest; we don’t want to hear made-up bullshit, we’re very into real.”

    H/T AlterNet | Photo by Dee Guerreros


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    Wes Anderson’s penchant for patterns and parallels within his films has been well-documented, and those elements show up in his latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson’s films, though often labeled as precious and indulgent, have certainly attracted a group of devoted fans content to dissect every inch of scene to find a common thread.

    Posted by filmmaker kogonada, who also pointed out the parallels between Fantastic Mr. Fox  and Anderson’s live-action films, “Wes Anderson Centered” explores several scenes from Anderson’s oeuvre and the perfect balance in their composition.

    Each scene is illustrated with a dotted line, a more tangible common thread. Stanley Kubrick was also fond of this center-balance, or “one-point perspective,” though his films and Anderson’s couldn’t be more different. Kubrick’s could more realistically tie into William Blake’s description of  “fearful symmetry.”

    Screengrab via kogonada/Vimeo


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    Did redditors really need a “reason” to start splicing classic gangsta rap with the theme song from the TV adaptation of Thomas the Tank Engine? Don’t be absurd. The hundreds of mashups created by these tirelessly inventive DJs—“Thomas in the Club,” Childish Tankino—truly speak for themselves.

    It would be impossible to do justice to the breadth and scope of the Thomas the Dank Engine forum, but here are seven superior compositions that ought to get a novice started on the right track.  

    We’re not sure what’s more amazing—the sheer versatility of this honky-tonk piano tune, or how layering gruff, macho rhymes over it never seems to get old. Now Thomas just needs to go on tour with all his hip-hop collaborators in tow. Think of the money they’ll save on tolls!

    Photo by Joe Ross/Flickr   


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    Justin Durant is a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys. He's also a massive music fan with sharp taste. We met up in Austin for the South By Southwest Music festival Friday with loose plans to catch bands and shoot some video. I asked him ahead of his flight to Texas from his home in New Orleans to text me his must-see acts. 

    The top of his list: Kalela, Schoolboy Q, Phantogram. 

    Kalela was only Washington Post pop critic Chris Richards' No. 1 overall seed coming out of South By. Schoolboy Q is a one-man defibrillator to gangsta rap, and Phantogram's bold and beautiful new album, Voices, has critics dumping praise.

    It's important to point out how low key and humble Durant is. I expected a buoyant extrovert with a marketing agenda, but I instead met an even-keeled and deeply passionate music nerd. There was a point where Durant and the producers spent almost an hour off camera playing fantasy rap album—how we'd budget guest performers and collaborators if a major label hired us to record a debut streets masterpiece. 

    Our director Stephen Whiting suggested calling this thing "On the Beat with JD" since Durant's 48 hours in Austin were about finding new favorites. Durant was down, but suggested we drop the "The." This is a new Daily Dot music segment we'll be revisiting again. Welcome to "On Beat with Justin Durant," South By 2014 edition.


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    The feverish fandom surrounding rock idol Bruce Springsteen—middle-aged men at his concerts have more than a little in common with the hysterical tweens who fawn over One Direction—has given rise to essay collections, academic conferences, and in short, a thriving subculture of Boss-based scholarship. Soon enough, we’ll have a highbrow periodical devoted to nothing but.

    BOSS: The Biannual Online-Journal of Springsteen Studies is, quite simply, an “open access academic journal that publishes peer-reviewed essays pertaining to Bruce Springsteen.” Most members of the well-credentialed editorial advisory board have backgrounds in the humanities—psychology, music, literature, history—but the project encourages a freestyle, interdisciplinary approach to Springsteen’s work and mythos. 

    “The goal,” according to managing editor and University of Virginia Ph.D. history student Jonathan D. Cohen, “is to provide a stable home for Springsteen Studies,” one that will inspire further work and allow writers to plumb his all-American guitar anthems without tailoring their essays to the needs of a broadly focused magazine. “We’re at the right time here,” Cohen told the Daily Dot by phone. “The kids who listened to him in the 70s and 80s, some of them grew up into academics.”

    Springsteen himself, Cohen noted, has often repeated the mantra “trust the art, not the artist,” but his themes of class identity and politics, matched with a meticulously combed-over personal narrative, makes closer analysis irresistible. “Every detail of his life is borne out in the work; you can say that ‘Independence Day’ is about the troubled relationship with his father. With all we know about him, we can better see the creative process.” 

    “He’s aware of the community,” Cohen said when asked about Springsteen’s relationship with fans. Ideally, however, BOSS would also open the field to less-obsessive scholars who might not have otherwise delved deep into this material.     

    While the first issue is already filled, possibly with the work of editors such as Eric Alterman, an avowed acolyte who has already published a expansive Springsteen biography, BOSS is still looking for new stuff. Just put together a 15-25 page article that touches upon Bruce’s singing, songwriting, or fan community and conforms to The Chicago Manual of Style. (The Asbury Park edition is considered unprofessional for some reason.)

    The publication could certainly be a boon to those of us who struggle to parse the typical Springsteen lyric. It could revolutionize the way we think about American flags and bandanas. And if its aim of securing “a place for Springsteen Studies in the contemporary academy” sounds a touch grandiose, well, that seems in keeping with the spirit of the Boss himself.

    Photo by manu_gt500/Flickr


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    It’s almost impressive when a TV show manages to inspire this much loathing before a single episode has aired.

    And we’re not even talking “disappointing adaptation of a beloved comicbook hero,” here. This is a completely original TV drama, by a new writer who doesn’t even appear to have an IMDb page yet.

    According to the Hollywood Reporter, Alice in Arabia is the story of a rebellious American teenager who is “unknowingly kidnapped” by her Saudi Arabian extended family, ending up “a virtual prisoner in her grandfather’s royal compound.” She then has to “count on her independent spirit and wit to find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil,” apparently.

    Written by a former Army linguist who worked on NSA missions in the Middle East (seriously), this pilot concept has left many people wondering: What is ABC Family thinking? An Arab family kidnapping their American relative and keeping her in a walled compound? And forcing her to wear a veil? It practically seems like a checklist of Islamophobic paranoia buzzwords.

    As soon as details of the show began to emerge online, ABC Family was inundated with tweets from people pointing out that at best, the pilot sounded like it was perpetuating some pretty racist stereotypes.

    Spurred on by Pakistani-American writer Aisha Saeed and coverage from Al Jazeera America, the #AliceInArabia hashtag is now full of criticism about the various potential problems in the show’s basic concept.

    Alice in Arabia’s writer Brooke Eikmeier already appears to have responded online, saying that the main character isn’t white and that the show is intended to give a voice to Arabs and Muslims on American TV. So far, this argument doesn’t seem to be making much headway, probably thanks to the unfortunate phrasing of the original plot summary on entertainment news sites.

    A Twitter account in Eikmeier’s name has also sprung up, attempting to do some damage control in among the flood of tweets from people complaining to ABC Family. But considering the shakey ground of most TV pilots, things don’t look good for Alice in Arabia. People are clamouring for it to be taken off air before it’s even been on the air, and all the social media hullabaloo has led to some pretty negativecoverage already.

    If you give Eikmeier the benefit of the doubt, it’s easy enough to feel bad for her. The plot summary that was released to sites like the Hollywood Reporter was probably written by someone at ABC Family, and no one has even seen an episode yet. It’s entirely possible that Alice in Arabia will be a sensitive and well-informed portrayal of Saudi Arabia and its culture.

    However, Occam’s Razor suggests that a TV show written by a white American and former Army/NSA employee, about an American girl being “kidnapped” by a Saudi Arabian family and forced to “survive behind the veil,” is unlikely to be a great portrayal either of Saudi Arabia or of what American audiences will likely perceive as Islamic culture as a whole.

    One thing’s for sure: if this pilot actually does end up being picked up for a full series, it will be under the microscope, and so will its writer.


    Photo via mitopencourseware


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    Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” is now 20 years old, and though many bands have attempted to cover the song, it’s not an easy one to master.

    Kawehi, a musician living in Lawrence, Kan., recently produced a cover worthy of praise, however. Using a looping setup, she performs all the parts of the song herself, and gives it a more modern update, while keeping the melody intact.

    The song is part of a bigger Kickstarter effort for a project called Robot Heart, which was successfully funded earlier this month. According to the Kickstarter page, “every sound on the EP will be made from a machine of some sort, and all songs will be written from the perspective of a robot.” Those pledging $200 or more could ask for cover requests (with a video) and “Heart-Shaped Box” was her first delivery.

    TCS - Robot Heart: Heart-Shaped Box - Nirvana (covered by Kawehi) from Kawehi on Vimeo.

    Kawehi’s produced other notable covers. If you’ve ever wanted to hear Nine Inch Nails' “Closer” from a female perspective, here you go:

    Closer by NIN - Covered by Kawehi from Kawehi on Vimeo.

    H/T Esquire |Screengrab via Kawehi/Vimeo


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    Featured prominently in this month’s edition of Viral Video Sensation Tries to Continue Cashing In is Antoine Dodson, the once-gay Hebrew Israelite and the man known best for the way he reacted to a rapist

    The Alabama native’s attempting to revive his career via a reality show, The Antoine Dodson Experience, and he needs YOUR money to do it. 

    Recently Dodson turned his attention to Kickstarter, where he launched a campaign to raise $38,000 in operating costs. The campaign claims he “wants to use the platform of his show to help other victims” of rape by “letting a team of filmmakers follow him on his journey where we will witness him watch the birth of his baby, repair his relationship with his baby-mama, move on from his latest ex-girlfriend (who also happens to be his brothers’ ex-girlfriend), explore his sexuality, attempt to reconcile with his estranged family,” and do a whole lot more that frankly doesn’t sound very realistic. 

    “My life is a roller-coater and I know my fans would like more of an inside peek,” he wrote. “But I don’t want to do it in a way that is fake or manufactured reality. I want you to see the truth in all its glory and heartache.”

    And give him $38,000.

    Rewards include Antoine Dodson bandanas ($50), personal video messages ($250), and a private Skype call ($1,000). So far, Dodson’s raised $776 from 20 backers ($776 wins you a private phone call). 

    We wish everybody in this campaign the best of luck, especially Dodson, who needs it so badly. 

    Photo via YouTube


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    A Wednesday morning retweet concerned me with CBS gameshow Wheel of Fortune for the first time in a half-decade. 

    Sajack’s hosted the nightly word find since 1983, which makes that quite the lofty claim. And Emil’s answer was spectacular. But was it the best Wheel of Fortune answer ever?

    Last night’s winner’s circle round yielded an “N” and an “E” on the first word of a three-word “thing” Emil was able to guess on his first guess. 

    Pretty crazy, right? Turns out Sajack’s a sensationalist. The best Wheel of Fortune riddle happened in 2010.

    That’s when Caitlin Burke, a fashion editor at Hearst Magazines, managed to solve a puzzle with just one letter out of 27, ironically admitting she “had a good feeling about this before solving a puzzle that read ‘I’ve got a good feeling about this.’”

    Unlike Emil, Burke avoided jumping around the floor like an idiot, but she did win a trip to the Caribbean. 

    “Is that just me, or is that the most amazing solve we’ve ever had?” Sajak asked back then. 

    That Sajak, ever the sensationalist.

    Photo via YouTube


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    Would you stream an album of complete silence to help fund a band’s tour? Michigan trio Vulfpeck is currently testing out this brave new idea.

    The group recently placed a 10-track album on Spotify that contains no music, only silence. It’s called Sleepify, and they’re asking fans to stream it at night, when they’re sleeping. For Spotify to pay for a play, the track must be at least 30 seconds long, so all 10 tracks contain roughly 30 seconds of silence. According to Vulfpeck’s Twitter, the track order is very important.

    They’re also taking illegal downloaders to task. Via Vulfpeck’s Facebook page:

    “We are aware Sleepify has appeared on a few torrent sites and a MegaUpload link is floating around. I assure you, our top priority as artists is for our music to be heard, but it's extremely frustrating after spending months in a studio for no reason at all, people feel no guilt stealing this music.”

    Band member Jack Stratton did the math: One listen to a Vulfpeck song on Spotify equals half a cent. If you stream the album on repeat overnight (roughly eight hours), that would generate $4. If a fan does that every night for a week, that could potentially generate enough money for Vulfpeck to play a free show on their tour. They’re also proposing the tour around cities where Sleepify is popular. Most likely they will play audible music at these shows.

    It’s an interesting idea in the current musical economy, in which touring is essential for a little-known band but difficult to fund creatively. This is just a different spin on crowdsourcing. Or, rather, crowdstreaming. Essentially, Spotify is funding Vulfpeck’s tour, and if this stunt is successful, it could change the interaction between artists and streaming sites. Or, Spotify could end up filled with silent albums.

    While some might see this campaign as a bit of a click-spam scam, Spotify is apparently playing along. A spokesperson told Digiday, “This is a clever stunt, but we prefer Vulfpeck’s earlier albums,” before claiming Sleepify is “derivative of John Cage’s work.”

    Neither the band nor Spotify has revealed just how many plays the album has received, but when you think about it, Sleepify is really all around us.

    H/T Digiday |Photo by stephcarter/Flickr


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    Netflix’s latest original series will be a sitcom starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

    Fonda and Tomlin reunite 34 years after the release of 9 to 5, for a series of half-hour episodes headed up by Friends creator Marta Kauffman. The show will follow the relationship of two “long-time nemeses” who discover that their husbands have fallen in love and plan to marry. 

    With a premise like that, Grace and Frankie sounds like it already has the potential to be pretty awesome. The only question is, did Fonda and Tomlin approach Netflix, or was it the other way round? It’d be kind of a bummer to find out that two comedy legends of this calibre had tried to pitch the show elsewhere, but were rejected on the grounds that they’re older ladies. We prefer the idea that Grace and Frankie’s creator had seen the success of other Netflix shows like Orange is the New Black, and decided it was the best choice.

    It’s interesting to see an online-only TV provider skewing older like this. Tomlin and Fonda are both in their seventies, and have two Oscars, eight Emmys, two Tonys and countless nominations between them. It’s proof that Netflix has serious mainstream TV potential outside of House of Cards and Marvel superhero shows, for sure. The show is scheduled for release in 2015.


    Photo via rob-young/Flickr (CC By 2.0)


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    If you grew up in the '80s, you likely remember watching Jem, the animated series about Jerrica Benton and her musical alter ego. She was sort of the anti-Barbie, leader of the glam-rock band the Holograms, who often battled “bad girl” band the Misfits. It ran for only about three years, but Jem remains a pop culture reference decades later.

    Today it was announced that Jem is being made into a live-action movie, courtesy of producers Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation), Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber's manager), and Jason Blum. The script has apparently already been completed by Ryan Lendels. No word yet if any women will be involved in the scriptwriting. Jem was originally created by writer Christy Marx.   

    According to the Hollywood Reporter, the producers said the film is for “a whole new generation with themes of being true to who you are in a multitasking, hyperlinked social media age.” Lendels’s script also apparently focuses on “an orphaned teenage girl who becomes an online recording sensation.”

    Yes, Jem is being remade for the Internet. And, according to the producers, by the Internet. In a YouTube clip released today, they asked fans to offer suggestions for casting, costume design, and music.

    “It’s sort of like Kickstarter, but rather than asking for money, we're asking for your creativity,” Chu says in the clip. 

    They’re urging fans to submit videos discussing what they like about Jem to the official Tumblr. Further, they’re asking men and women who might want to star in the film to submit videos as a sort of audition. They helpfully point out it’s open to “any age, any gender.” (I had a Jem doll, but I chopped all her hair off to make her look less glamorous. I suppose I thought she was conforming to outdated standards of beauty, but I was also 9.)

    Can the men behind Bieber, G.I. Joe, and Paranormal Activity make a realistic movie about aspiring female musicians? Perhaps, with the right input from fans. Updating an '80s TV show for the "social media age" doesn’t always translate, although the series did feature pre-Siri technology in the form of Synergy, Jem's badass A.I. program, and hologram projector. 


    Screengrab via ReliveRetroNetwork/YouTube


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