Parsing Pope Benedict XVI's statement on social networks:
"The concept of friendship has enjoyed a renewed prominence in the vocabulary of the new digital social networks that have emerged in the last few years..."
Hey! I'm on YouTube!
"The concept is one of the noblest achievements of human culture. We should be careful, therefore, never to trivialise the concept or the experience of friendship..."
So long as those experiences are hetro...
"It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships..."
"were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbours and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation. If the desire..."
"for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for..."
The SAG Awards ("The Award Show Where Only Actors Vote") were held last night in Los Angeles, and begged to differ ever so slightly from the Golden Globes. While Slumdog Millionaire took, as expected, the award for best cast, both major acting nods were sort-of upsets: Meryl Streep won best actress for Doubt, and Sean Penn won best actor for Milk. Many have remarked on Penn's sensitive, fully-realized portrayal of the gay San Francisco supervisor, but his acceptance speech last night kind of rubbed me the wrong way. He approached the microphone to a tumultuous round of applause, and then tried a little comedy:
Thank you and good evening comrades. (Laughs) That was for O'Reilly. Something happened to me during the making of this movie. I noticed it tonight, where I noticed that the statues have rather healthy packages ... As actors we don't play gay, straight ...we play human beings. I'm so appreciative of this acknowledgment. This is a story of equal rights for all human beings.
Okay, yes, it's a standard line to reference the genitalia on those statues and awards, and forgive me for being a wet blanket, but the idea that it would take researching and playing a gay role to even see the bulge on a giant statue seems to play into the stereotype of gay men as being "all about sex." It's particularly bothersome since it's this idea, of the lascivious sexual deviant, that has led to a wide variety of discrimination, particularly when it comes to gay men as teachers or parents. I'm as much for a good chuckle as the next guy, and obviously Mr. Penn feels himself to be such a clear and honest supporter of gay rights that he can make those jokes from the "inside." But context is everything, and I'd just like to point out that he's not on the inside.
On the other hand, other gay journalists like AfterElton.com didn't seem bothered, so maybe I'm just a curmudgeon. Riffers, thoughts? And does it even matter, since Mickey Rourke is the Oscar lock?
It didn't even occur to me to ask readers to remix my review of copyright reform champion Lawrence Lessig's book Remix, but Stephen Colbert is totally smarter than me. The Comedy Central host has issued a challenge to would-be copyright infringers, demanding that they do not remix his interview with Lessig or throw in any excerpts from his audiobook, "particularly Chapter 7, entitled 'Homosexuals.'" Well, of course some sampling enthusiasts out there took the bait, and then Colbert himself put together a ridiculous rave-up of a video, "as a warning to others." Fluorescent face paint: always good for a laugh.
After hearing about all the trouble people had even getting onto the Mall for Obama's speech on Tuesday, I was starting to feel a little better about watching the whole thing from my comfy couch, instead of, you know, going back in time two years and quitting my job and volunteering for the campaign so that I could have been a part of the festivities. But then I found out about this: playing the Obama Staff Ball on Tuesday night was Arcade Fire, the Montreal combo whose raw, ecstatic 2005 Coachella performance brought me to actual tears. Like Obama getting inaugurated wasn't enough to start up the waterworks, ballgoers were treated to the Fire doing a mandolin-led cover of Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," which you can watch above thanks to Stereogum, but only if you have some Kleenex nearby. If you're still wondering what the heck I'm talking about with all this Arcade Fire blah-dee-blah, watch a clip of that Coachella performance after the jump. Sniff, I just have something in my eye...
It's been a recurringtheme around MoJo (and in my life) to impress upon people the seemingly counterintuitive notion that giving your creative output away for free can often increase sales, something the music industry misunderstood disastrously and only now is begrudgingly coming around on. But it's rare we're given such a clear, obvious example of this theory, like the one Boing Boing pointed to over on Mashable. After being frustrated by thousands of YouTube users posting stuff without permission, venerable British comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus created their own YouTube channel with a whole bunch of their sketches and shows on it. As the Pythons put it in a statement on the site:
For 3 years you YouTubers have been ripping us off, taking tens of thousands of our videos and putting them on YouTube. Now the tables are turned. It's time for us to take matters into our own hands. We know who you are, we know where you live and we could come after you in ways too horrible to tell. But being the extraordinarily nice chaps we are, we've figured a better way to get our own back: We've launched our own Monty Python channel on YouTube. No more of those crap quality videos you've been posting. We're giving you the real thing - HQ videos delivered straight from our vault.
We're letting you see absolutely everything for free. So there! But we want something in return. None of your driveling, mindless comments. Instead, we want you to click on the links, buy our movies & TV shows and soften our pain and disgust at being ripped off all these years.
So, what happened? Did a greedy public return all their videos and sit comfortably at home, chuckling over how much money they're saving? Nope. In fact, the presence of the YouTube page seemed to help increase their DVD sales "by 23,000 percent," with a DVD jumping up to #2 on Amazon this week. Like Mashable said, nobody thinks owners of copyrighted content "should give everything away for free and simply hope that the fans will send them money." But it's clear that "cracking down" on what looks to our not-quite-caught-up-with-the-internet brains like a copyright violation can most definitely harm your bottom line, while going with the flow can help it. Either way, it also means we now can embed Python sketches here to our hearts' delight. After the jump: Money, Bicycle Repairman, Every Sperm is Sacred!
For the most part, America's editorial cartoonists have gotten better at drawing Obama over the last year. They're no longer depicting him as a generic black guy but as an unique individual with his own distinctive features. (I'm sure there's a dissertation topic in there somewhere about how this somehow mirrored many white Americans' evolving views of candidate Obama.) But there are some still some stragglers, whom I feel obligated to call out—in the name of improving the quality of political satire, of course. Not that good editorial cartoonists have to be good caricaturists: The Washington Post's Tom Toles, who is for my money the most original of the newsprint cartoonists, draws Obama like he has a bow tie stuck behind his head. But at least it kinda, sorta looks like him.
What bugs me are the cartoonists who still do the random-black-dude thing or use some kind of slapdash combo of Obama's most prominent features ("Big ears? Check! Angular chin? Check! Longer than average torso? Check!"). Or worse. After the jump, a collection of nine of the most egregious examples of editorial cartoonists' attempts to capture Obama's likeness, and some thoughts on who—or what—they actually look like.
There were few surprises in this year's Pazz & Jop, the Village Voice
poll that almost inevitably seems to come up with the most reliably
accurate rundown of the previous year in music. TV on the Radio ran
away with the album honors, with Dear Science earning 1754 points in the poll, way ahead of runner-up Vampire Weekend's 1075 and close third Portishead's, er, Third,
with 1058. M.I.A. was able to take the top spot on the singles list
despite the fact that "Paper Planes" came out in 2007—in fact, the poll
includes 2007 votes, which propelled M.I.A. past Estelle's "American
Boy" at #2 and Beyonce's "Single Ladies" at #3. Cheaters, but I'll
allow it since I don't want Estelle to be #1. Accompanying essays include noted Party Ben opponent Rob Harvilla's musings on how M.I.A. captured our collective imaginations, and a more serious look
at TV on the Radio from Andy Beta, who hesitantly posits that the
multiracial New York combo's success may parallel our new president's.
Top 10s after the jump.
1. TV On The Radio - Dear Science
2. Vampire Weekend - S/T
3. Portishead - Third
4. Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Vol. 1: Fourth World War
5. Fleet Foxes - S/T
6. Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III
7. Santogold - S/T
8. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
9. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
10. Kanye West - 808s & Heartbreak
Before we do anything here, I'd just like to post this video from Funny or Die comparing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to another fine Oscar favorite:
Somebody should sue. Anyway, Forrest Gump 2: Old Dude Gets Young grabbed 11 whoops, 13 nominations for this year's Oscars, beating out Slumdog Millionaire which garnered 10. Other best picture competitors include Frost/Nixon, Milk and The Reader. The acting nominations were a little surprising: Kate Winslet, who won Golden Globes for Revolutionary Road and The Reader, was nominated only for the latter, and in the best actress category rather than supporting; Clint Eastwood was snubbed in acting categories, as was Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins. Perhaps the most heartwarming aspect of the nominations was the poor performance of The Dark Knight, skulking away into its batcave with 8 nominations, all technical except for Heath Ledger's posthumous supporting actor nod.
How awesome are the Golden Raspberry Awards? They're like the conscience of Hollywood, with a healthy dose of alliterative, sarcastic wit thrown in. The Razzies have been awarded every year since 1980, and this year's nominations are out now, complete with a press release that compares the "plethora of putrid motion pictures" coming from Hollywood to the "disastrous" economic downturn. It helps to imagine the voice of Snagglepuss reading it. The Love Guru was the most-honored film this year, with seven total nominations; other "Worst Picture" nods include Disaster Movie, The Happening, The Hottie and the Nottie, Meet the Spartans and In the Name of the King. Uwe Boll, referred to as "Germany's answer to Ed Wood," will receive a special Worst Career Achievement award. Much deserved.
These Razzies are to be given out at a ceremony February 21 (the day before the Oscars, naturally), and you know, some people have actually turned up to accept their awards in the past: Tom Green, Tom Selleck, Halle Berry and Bill Cosby have all made appearances. If they had a blog version, or a mash-up Razzies, I would totally go. The full list of nominees is after the jump.