Mixed Media

Film Review: "We Are the Giant"

| Sat Dec. 6, 2014 6:30 AM EST

We Are the Giant

MOTTO PICTURES

Bahraini sisters and activists Maryam and Zainab al-Khawaja are the heart of this devastating look at the lives behind three Arab Spring uprisings. The film's interviews are interspersed with grainy, often violent footage—one heart-wrenching clip of a little girl singing at a peaceful protest is cut short by a nearby explosion; another expresses the profound remorse of a Syrian protest leader whose peaceful rallies were met by fatal attacks on his people. By the end, some of the film's main characters are questioning their faith in nonviolent resistance, but their resilience in the face of injustice is this excellent film's common thread.

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President Obama to Appear on "The Colbert Report"

| Fri Dec. 5, 2014 9:29 AM EST

President Obama will have the distinct honor of appearing on one of the handful of episodes that remain before the nation must bid a sorrowful adieu to the institution that is "The Colbert Report."

Host Stephen Colbert, who is replacing David Letterman over at the "Late Show," announced the booking last night, summing it up as a great privilege to "be sitting down with the man who sat down with Bill O'Reilly."

The interview will take place Monday, December 8th and be broadcasted from George Washington University for a special D.C. edition. So pumped, we are.

 

Jon Stewart Explains What Is "So Utterly Depressing" About the Eric Garner Grand Jury

| Thu Dec. 4, 2014 2:38 PM EST

Last night, Jon Stewart began the Daily Show by dropping the comedy and expressing in very human terms the frustration and disbelief everyone (or (well, not everyone) is feeling after a Staten Island grand jury's failure to indict the NYPD officer who put Eric Garner in a lethal chokehold on film."If comedy is tragedy plus time I need more fucking time—but I would settle for less fucking tragedy, to be honest with you. What is so utterly depressing is that none of the ambiguities that existed in the Ferguson case exist in the Staten Island case. And yet the outcome is exactly the same." Stewart says. "We are definitely not living in a post-racial society and I can imagine there are a lot of people out there wondering how much of a society we're living in at all." Pretty much.

 

5 Times the Supreme Court Tried to Understand Pop Culture

| Wed Dec. 3, 2014 5:20 PM EST

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's fans might refer to her as The Notorious RBG, but when it comes to understanding rap culture, the Supreme Court has some catching up to do. That was clear on Monday, when the justices heard arguments in Elonis v. United States, a case about whether gory, rap-style rhymes posted on Facebook by a Pennsylvania man constituted a real threat to his estranged wife.

Lawyers for Anthony Elonis asserted that his posts should be read as creative self-expression. (Some sample lyrics: "There's one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.") Justice Samuel Alito didn't seem convinced that these lines weren't menacing. "This sounds like a road map for threatening a spouse and getting away with it," he said. "So you put it in a rhyme…and you say, 'I'm an aspiring rap artist,' and so then you are free from prosecution." Those comments are consistent with how judges and jurors tend to think about rap lyrics—they're likely to see them as autobiographical and literally true, even though many rappers assume fictional personas.

The Elonis case isn't the first time the Supreme Court has grappled with what constitutes legitimate artistic expression. From declaring that movies can be broadly censored because they could be "used for evil" to deciding that G-strings don't limit nude dancers' freedom of expression, the past results have been decidedly mixed. Here's are the justices' most offbeat efforts to play art critic:

 

1. Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, 1915

The facts: An Ohio law required anyone who wanted to show a film to get permission from a board of censors, who charged for approval. Mutual Film Corporation, a motion picture company best known for producing Charlie Chaplin comedies, didn't want to pay. It argued that its movies were protected by the First Amendment because of their power to enlighten and entertain.

It took until 1952 for the court to decide that film had proved itself "a significant medium for the communication of ideas."

The outcome: The justices unanimously sided with the state on the grounds that movies were a business, not an art form—and that they could corrupt the hearts and minds of innocent children. "They, indeed, may be mediums of thought, but so are many things," wrote Justice Joseph McKenna. "They may be used for evil, and against that possibility the statute was enacted. Their power[s] of amusement…make them the more insidious." It took until 1952 for the court to decide that film had proved itself "a significant medium for the communication of ideas."

 

2. United States v. Thirty-seven Photographs, 1971

The facts: Customs agents at the Los Angeles airport stopped Milton Luros on his way home from Europe and confiscated 37 photos of couples having sex, based on a 1930 law banning the importation of obscene material. Luros claimed that the photos, which he'd planned to use to illustrate a copy of the Kama Sutra, shouldn't have been confiscated because they were for private use.

The outcome: The court concluded that Luros' right to privately possess obscene material didn't extend to the airport. "A port of entry is not a traveler's home," Justice Byron White wrote. But Justice Hugo Black, a First Amendment absolutist, penned a scathing dissent. "I can imagine no more distasteful, useless, and time-consuming task for the members of this Court than perusing this material to determine whether it has 'redeeming social value,'" he seethed.

(What's with the weird name: Cases in which a federal court seizes property are traditionally named after the item seized, not the item's owner—hence the epic-sounding 2011 case U.S. v. One White Crystal-Covered ‘Bad Tour' Glove and other Michael Jackson Memorabilia.)

 

3. Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc., 1991

The facts: Two exotic dance clubs in South Bend, Indiana, wanted to add completely naked dancers to their lineup. State law required that the dancers wear at least pasties and a G-string. The clubs sued, arguing that the law infringed on the dancers' freedom of expression.

Medal of Honor and Resident Evil 4 were delivered to the court so justices could see what playing a video game was like.

The outcome: No redress for the would-be strippers. The fact that the nakedness would have been consensual didn't matter to Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote, "The purpose of Indiana's nudity law would be violated, I think, if 60,000 fully consenting adults crowded into the Hoosierdome to display their genitals to one another, even if there were not an offended innocent in the crowd."

 

4. National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, 1998

The facts: After a scandal over artists receiving federal funding—including Andres Serrano, whose 1987 photo Piss Christ depicted a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine—Congress added "taking into consideration general standards of decency" to the NEA's grant requirements. Performance artist Karen Finley, whose work involved covering her naked body with chocolate, sued the government after her grant application was denied. She argued that the new grant requirements suppressed unorthodox ideas.

The outcome: Congress wasn't regulating speech, just setting funding priorities, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the majority. She noted that the amendment didn't preclude "indecent" art from receiving grants; it "simply adds 'considerations' to the grant-making process."

 

5. Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011

The facts: EMA, a trade association for the home entertainment industry, challenged California's ban on the sale of violent video games to minors. Before the justices heard the case, they had copies of Medal of Honor and Resident Evil 4 delivered to the court so they could figure out what playing a video game was like.

The outcome: The gaming experience must have won the justices over. They ruled that video games deserved First Amendment protection, overturning California's law. "Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary devices... and through features distinctive to the medium," Scalia wrote in his pro-gamer majority opinion.

After 45 Years, "The Velvet Underground" Stands the Test of Time

| Wed Dec. 3, 2014 6:00 AM EST

The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground—45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition
Polydor/Universal Music Enterprises

Following the radical and overpowering White Light/White Heat, the Velvet Underground's third, self-titled, album initially seemed like a lesser effort, but it has more than stood the test of time. With cofounder and main creative foil (or foe) John Cale out of the band, leader Lou Reed assumed complete control, crafting a set of relatively understated songs that range from rockin' ("What Goes On") to surprisingly gentle ("After Hours").

At six discs, 65 tracks, and five hours of music, this behemoth collection offers plenty to savor (although casual fans might prefer the two-disc distillation). If three different mixes of the original album suggests overkill, the mono version does reveal different textures to the music, while a fourth disc of sessions for an abandoned fourth album contains a slew of genuine gems, including the raucous "I'm Gonna Move Right In," a touching "She's My Best Friend," and an early look at the Reed standard "Rock & Roll."

The final two discs, featuring live performances from November 1969, are simply terrific, highlighted by the exuberant "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together," a 30-minute-plus take on "Sister Ray" and the anthemic "Sweet Jane." Nearly a half-century later, the raw heart and tender soul of the Velvet Underground are wondrous indeed.

Jon Stewart Blasts Fox News' Ferguson Coverage as "Race Plagiarism"

| Tue Dec. 2, 2014 2:28 PM EST

After a week-long hiatus, Jon Stewart returned to The Daily Show last night to call out Fox News for insisting that the outrage over the events in Ferguson had little to do with civil rights and was instead instigated by "racial arsonists."

Who might these arsonists be? According to Fox host Sean Hannity, they're the "terribly irresponsible" likes of Rev. Al Sharpton, Attorney General Eric Holder, and President Barack Obama—all of whom Hannity suggested were fueling national tensions. Of course, Hannity isn't alone. Fox staples Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump, have all placed the blame on everyone but Darren Wilson.

"It almost makes you think that the crime that they're really upset about over there isn't race pimping or race arson," Stewart said. "It's race plagiarism."

Watch below:

 

(via Digg)

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This Is the Best Newspaper "Retraction" You'll Read All Year

| Tue Dec. 2, 2014 12:13 PM EST

The "retraction" appeared in Australia's Courier-Mail, which later interviewed the family:

Kai Bogert, as he is now called, was known as Elizabeth Anne for 19 years. Ms Bogert last night told The Courier-Mail that placing the ad was “a no-brainer”.

“I needed to show my son I support him 100 per cent and wanted to let the world know that."

Perfect.

Chris Rock: "My Children Are Encountering the Nicest White People That America Has Ever Produced"

| Mon Dec. 1, 2014 3:18 PM EST

New York Magazine's Frank Rich has an incredible interview with Chris Rock, in which the comedian discusses everything from what's happened in Ferguson, his new film Top Five, to Bill Cosby's tarnished legacy. It's an eye-opening conversation wholly worth reading for every detail.

But Rock's most compelling meditations might be found in his deeply personal descriptions of what it's like to raise two daughters under the country's first black president, while wrestling with complex notions of what real racial progress in America means to different people. 

On his two daughters, Lola and Zahra:

I mean, I almost cry every day. I drop my kids off and watch them in the school with all these mostly white kids, and I got to tell you, I drill them every day: Did anything happen today? Did anybody say anything? They look at me like I am crazy.

How Lola and Zahra view the current First Family:

...You’ve got to remember, they’re so young. Zahra was 4 when Obama was nominated. So as far as they’re concerned, there have always been little black girls in the White House.

On kids and racial progress:

It’s partly generational, but it’s also my kids grew up not only with a black president but with a black secretary of State, a black joint chief of staff, a black attorney general. My children are going to be the first black children in the history of America to actually have the benefit of the doubt of just being moral, intelligent people.

How his daughters are growing up with the "nicest white people that America has ever produced:"

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years...The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

Read the interview in its entirety over at Vulture.

Here's a Video of the GOP's Next Top Obama Investigator Losing a Leg-Wrestling Match to Stephen Colbert

| Mon Dec. 1, 2014 3:00 PM EST

Next year, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) will take over the chairmanship of the House oversight committee, replacing the current chair, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), as the GOP's lead investigator. Chaffetz's position comes with a lot of power—he will be able to subpoena Obama administration officials, and his committee has investigative jurisdiction over nearly every imaginable scandal, from security lapses by the Secret Service to the US Postal Service's ongoing financial problems. Benghazi is also likely to remain a high priority for the committee under Chaffetz—despite a report released last month by the GOP-run House intelligence committee that debunked nearly every conspiracy theory about the attack.

To better familiarize our readers with the incoming chairman, here's a video of Chaffetz losing a leg-wrestling match against comedian Stephen Colbert in 2009:

Video: Two Sisters Fight Off Attackers on a Public Bus in India

| Mon Dec. 1, 2014 11:37 AM EST

Two sisters were filmed fighting a group of men who allegedly sexually harassed them while traveling on a public bus in northern India. The video was filmed by a fellow passenger and shows the sisters, identified as Arati and Pooja, beating and kicking the men.

"One of the boys started touching my sister and making kissing gestures," Arati told the media. "I told him to go away or I would teach him a lesson. Then he called another boy saying that we have to beat up two girls. And then the other boy got on the bus."

At several points the girls can be seen using their belts to hit them while onlookers do nothing to help the sisters. Several people can even be heard telling the girls not to file a formal complaint against the men.

The shocking recording, which has since gone viral and lead to the arrest of the three men, prompted a huge response on social media. But the incident highlights the continued lack of public awareness surrounding sexual harassment faced by young girls throughout India, where according to the National Crime Records Bureau, 93 women are raped everyday.

The video also recalls the 2012 Delhi gang-rape, in which a 23-year-old woman died after being brutally raped by a group of men on a city bus. The assault lead to massive protests calling for the government to legislate harsher punishment against sexual assaulters.