Hacking the Hunger Games: Harry Potter Alliance Launches Catching Fire Themed Economic Equality Campaign

Note: Slight Hunger Game’s spoilers in the video above and ahead.

Since its inception The Harry Potter Alliance has launched successful campaigns, told intricate policy stories and done a world of good in a world of Muggles. Now, in time for the release of Catching Fire the group is looking to The Hunger Games to elevate the issue of economic inequality and to galvanize young people on behalf of those most affected. I got a chance to talk to Andrew Slack, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Harry Potter Alliance about the campaign and will share some of his insights.

But first — some background:

The Harry Potter Alliance has built a reputation for being scrappy, creative and full of heart.

The group grounds complex policies and contemporary events in fictional references and beloved narratives and in fact looks to the world of Harry Potter- and the series’ creator J.K Rowling specifically, for guidance on how to change the world.

They quote her on their about page: (more…)

Destroying The Princess Machine: Toy Company Remixes Beastie Boys Song, Advocates Toy Choices for Young Girls

The toy company GoldieBlox released the absolutely best thing on the Internet this week.

The spot consists of three girls assembling a Rube Goldberg machine while simultaneously reciting remixed lyrics to the Beastie Boys song Girls released just in time for the holidays.

The remix takes this Beastie Boys verse

I like the way that they walk

And it’s chill to hear them talk

And I can always make them smile

From White Castle to the Nile

And turns it into

You like to buy us pink toys

And everything else is for boys

And you can always get us dolls

And we’ll grow up like it false

It’s time for change

According to Brett Doar, the lead architect on the project also known for creating the Rube Goldberg machine used in OK Go’s video for This Too Shall Passthe build required a crew of 5 working for over two and a half weeks.

The sentiment expressed in the video is not just a company angling for page views– it’s at the heart of the GoldieBlox philosophy.

Founder and CEO Debbie Sterling is a stunning example of practicing what you preach. She holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University and sees the depressing statistic that only 11% of world’s engineers are women as an opportunity to, in her words, “disrupt the pink aisle”.

The GoldieBlox website is unapologetic about their mission and they have no interest in burying the lead:

At GoldieBlox, our goal is to get girls building. We’re here to help level the playing field in every sense of the phrase. By tapping into girls’ strong verbal skills, our story + construction set bolsters confidence in spatial skills while giving young inventors the tools they need to build and create amazing things.

GoldieBlox is here, clear about what they want, and people are responding.

Last year the company launched a successful kickstarter that blew its $150,000 goal out of the water garnering $285,881 in pledges.  As of this writing the youtube video for this spot amassed over 7 million views and show no signs of stopping.

The company is currently competing for a coveted (free) ad spot during the 2014 Superbowl. (more…)

Defined Lines: Blurred Lines Parody Goes Viral

You have likely heard a lot about Robin Thicke and his summer hit Blurred Lines. Famous for its funky bass line and for being “sort of rapey” – the song has been in headlines as of late for taking center stage at the MTV VMAs and being the subject of a copyright dispute with Marvin Gaye’s estate.  The song has repeatedly been taken to task for its problematic lyrics and now a parody courtesy of Law Revue girls has hit YouTube that lyrically addresses what’s so wrong.

Comprised of University of Auckland law students Olivia Lubbock, Zoe Ellwood and Adelaide Dunn – the parody turns the original lyrics around to address the sexism inherent in the original song.

So what began as:

You’re a good girl.

Can’t let it get past me.

Me fall from plastic.

Talk about getting blasted.

I hate these blurred lines.

I know you want.

I know you want it.

I know you want it.

Became:

 

We aint good girls.

We are scholastic.

Smart and Sarcastic.

Listen Mankind.

If you want to get nasty, just don’t harass me.

You can’t just grab me.

That’s a sex crime.

Yeah we don’t want it.

 

Posted 5 days ago, the effort has already topped 800,000 views on YouTube.  Taking a page from the Blurred Lines video, the parody features fully clothed women singing while nearly naked men surround them.

Unlike the original Blurred Lines video, the parody was temporarily taken down from YouTube for being flagged “inappropriate.”

When discussing the inspiration behind the song, Thicke shared that he and Pharrell wrote the song by “acting like we were two old men on a porch hollering at girls.”

This parody shows what happens when those girls holler back.

This Speech Was Cut From Last Week’s March on Washington

Fifty years ago, at 19 years old, John Lewis was the youngest person to speak at the March on Washington.  In the days leading up to its commemoration, we’ve been reminded that Lewis’ words almost went unheard.  After the initial hand wringing from the Kennedy administration had subsided, and fearing embarrassment or violence, intense work was done to ensure that the content of the march didn’t veer into “radical” territory.  At the time, critics like Malcolm X denounced the March as something that was in fact orchestrated by the White House.

The truth is that it could have been worst.  A proposal to have President Kennedy address the march was only thwarted after a quick thinking Bayard Rustin suggested that if he did so, “the Negroes were going to stone him.”

In truth, Rustin was afraid that the March on Washington would get co-opted by one man. If President Kennedy spoke it would become the President’s march.  After his little white lie was shared, the proposal to have the President speak was never mentioned again.

At the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, a different choice was made.

The President spoke and the young leaders of today were left with the possibility of having their voices left unheard. Three speakers; Phillip Agnew from The Dream Defenders, Sofia Campos from United We Dream, and Alayna Eagle Shield from The Standing Rock Indian Reservation were told by March organizers that there wasn’t sufficient time for them to share their prepared remarks.

Yet unlike the march in ’63; today’s young people don’t need to be standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in order to be heard.

So true to form, and in keeping with the sort of badass creativity we’ve come to expect from these groups – last week they launched a campaign and they’re not shy about what sparked their call to action, stating;

Yesterday at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, The time of Phillip Agnew (Dream Defenders) and Sofia Campos (United We Dream), two leaders representing our generation at the March, were cut.  But we still have much to say.”

The  campaign then invited other young people to submit their own videos.  Yet while “time” has been cited as the official reason why these two minute speeches were scrapped from the program – the truth is that in the case of Phillip and Sofia in particular, the real rationale probably lies in the first fifteen seconds of their prepared remarks.

Phillip’s speech begins:

By the time we finish our conversation this morning another black boy will lay bleeding in the streets of Chicago.  And as we rest our heads tonight 300,000 of our Veterans will lay their heads homeless.  And I would love to explain to you how the hate we spread abroad is the real reason why hatred washes upon our shores but I only have two minutes.  And I can tell you that Philadelphia just closed 23 of it’s schools at the same time as it makes way for a 400 million dollar state of the art Prison and that North Carolina and Florida continue to silence their citizens at the ballot box but I only have two minutes. I could tell you how even as we celebrate Dr. King’s dream, over 400,000 of our immigrant brothers and sisters languish away in privately owned detection camps… and how we still find our queer brothers and sisters in prison of the shadows of their closets but I only have two minutes.

And Sophia’s:

My name is Sofia Campos; born in Peru, raised in California, soon to start my first day of graduate school at MIT.  My family and I are undocumented.  We have limited if any legal rights in this country that we’ve known for over 17 years.  My parents gave their all so that I could reach for my dreams in in turn I graduated from UCLA and committed myself to fighting for all of our dreams with a more just and humane world.

The campaign truly encapsulates a concerted note by Youngist in their write up of the march when they state:

Many young leaders are also rejecting the idea that we are trying to be the “MLK Jr.’s of our generation”, understanding instead that we are apart of a larger legacy of struggle but that are struggles are not the same as those waged by freedom riders, the Black Panthers, the Stonewall rioters and other freedom fighters who have come before us.

Watch Sofia and Alayna’s speeches below.

 

 

To participate, record your own two minute video and tweet @dreamdefenders using #ourmarch and #marchon

 

YouTube Blocks, Unblocks, Kirk Cameron’s New Trailer (Also, Bananas)

Kirk Cameron’s new movie Unstoppable almost failed to live up to its name.  The evangelical film producer and brother to DJ Tanner took to Facebook yesterday morning to protest supposed attempts made by Facebook and YouTube to “censor his film”, writing;

“Calling all friends of Faith, Family, and Freedom! Facebook has officially “blocked” me and you (and everyone else) from posting any link to my new movie at UnstoppableTheMovieDOTcom, labeling the content as “abusive”, “unsafe”, and “spammy”! I can’t even write the real link here, or Facebook would block this post too!! Try to post it yourself and see! We have been officially shut down by Facebook and unable to get any response from them. This is my most personal film about faith, hope, and love, and about why God allows bad things to happen to good people. What is “abusive” or “unsafe” about that?! Please help us encourage Facebook to unblock our website soon by sharing this post with your friends so more people can see this transparent, faith-building project.”

 

Though I guess the film’s promise to “settle once and for all that life is stronger than death, good is stronger than evil and faith is stronger than doubt” might be construed as spammy, the trailer would seem to lack any objectionable content at all.

It does however, give us a reason to revisit one of Cameron’s most unintentionally hilarious roles as a bystander to an atheist banana.

Gay Country Artist, Steve Grand, Takes Youtube by Storm

 
 

Summertime, whiskey, lust, longing, and rejection mark all the key ingredients of an unrequited summer love gone wrong.  They also underlie the story behind the song and video for Steve Grand’s latest, and first, YouTube sensation “All American Boy”.

What makes the video “radical” is  that Grand is an up-and-coming country artist who is unapologetic about the fact that he’s gay.  The song follows a crush developed on a male friend of his and the accompanying video features footage of Steve making his move only to be turned away, left to watch as the object of his affection grinds with the blonde by the campfire.

The song and video have accrued over 630,000 views as of this writing.  In addition to being catchy as hell– the song also further affirms what proponents of equality have said all along.  Regardless of your gender identity or sexual orientation, we’re all the same.  Rejection sucks and even the most innocent summer love can serve as fodder for your next single.

While the internet is abuzz over Grand’s video, he joins a legion of other gay artists who are proud and out. From Rufus Wainwright to Jenny Owens to Adam Lambert and Tegan & Sara, this is one taboo that’s quickly fading further aided by recent artists like Lady Gaga and Macklemore who’ve taken to defending the rights of others through song.

While Grand failed to win over his American Boy, this song/ video marks a victory in the artist’s own evolution.  After coming out as gay when he was in 5th grade, Grand’s parents put him through five years of straight therapy. Now 23, Grand is able to embrace his identity while leveraging an experience had at a summer camp when he was 13 to speak to the sort of bittersweet loss sure to resonate across the spectrum.

YouTube Yanks Sexy Male Underwear Video as “Inappropriate”

(this is not the banned video, though it is indicative of Andrew Christian’s video style)

Andrew Christian’s cheeky videos on YouTube advertise the clothing company’s expressive line of men’s underwear, featuring gorgeous male models flaunting their assets—and front-sets: Andrew Christian’s “Show-it” line promises

maximum frontal enhancement.

The company directs their marketing towards gay men, though seriously straight dudes couldn’t go wrong wearing some of these styles which look far more comfortable and sexy than the standard hide-away tighty-whiteys and boxer briefs. A man, no matter what his sexual orientation, would definitely cut a fine figure in these underpinnings–they are kinda like a super-bra for the meat and potatoes.

The Andrew Christian videos–which are age restricted on YouTube–definitely play up sexuality, as do vast number of YouTube videos aimed towards straights and featuring female models (and amateurs). So why did YouTube yank Andrew Christian’s “Pink Paradise” promo from the company’s YouTube channel? (I haven’t seen it, but if it’s anything like their others, it’s cute, playful, and sexy with hot guys frolicking in skivvies, eye candy for straight women and gay men).

In an open letter to YouTube, Andrew Christian wrote:

Our video was meant to be a fun way to feature our new line of underwear. We’re disappointed and confused about its removal for inappropriate content when there are hundreds of thousands of videos featuring overtly sexual female imagery. We are a company that only produces menswear, and it feels unfair that our ads are held to different standards for featuring the male body.

There is no doubt in our mind that there would be no issue if the exact same video was posted with female models instead of male. Are you being homophobic or is it something else?

All we request is for our account to be unblocked, and the “Pink Paradise” video to be restored with its original view count so we may continue to regard YouTube as a fair and balanced outlet for reaching our audience.

The company’s channel is now unblocked.  Their letter included a short list of videos which feature the same type of content as the Andrew Christian video (and may be NSFW depending on your company standards):

-Fully exposed breasts / butt

-Lingering shots of tight underwear, exposed butts
(and over 18 million views)

-Visible nipples and butts

-Fully exposed breasts

-Camel toe video

-Entire video is slow motion close-ups of bouncing breasts

-Girl rubbing her barely covered body, very near nudity

-Female pool party video with just as much exposed butt and small swimsuits

-Exposed butts, near-exposed breasts

Some of these are age restricted, and one that Andrew Christian listed in their letter featuring

Women making out and putting their hands under each others’ underwear

is now removed. I found more raunchy videos of women including this one which far exceeds the amount of ass shown in Andrew Christian videos, and the related videos that are featured on the same page are um, really rather extreme. Based on their titles, I cannot unsee them, so I didn’t click. You may be braver than I.

YouTube’s community guidelines state:

YouTube is not for pornography or sexually explicit content.

While I haven’s seen Andrew Christian’s “Pink Paradise,” based on other videos featured the company’s channel, I can safely say they are sexy but not explicitly sexual. And definitely not porn.

YouTube’s Terms of Service explain that by using YouTube:

You further understand and acknowledge that you may be exposed to Content that is inaccurate, offensive, indecent, or objectionable

Undoubtedly there are people who find videos of  anyone frolicking in their underwear offensive, indecent, or objectionable, but seriously, they are adults. In underwear. And just like Victoria’s Secret and that god awful Paris Hilton Carl’s Jr commercial (I do not recommend clicking on the “banned” version which will get you a whole list of related videos which are really skanky and somehow have passed muster with YouTube’s community standards, possibly because they cater to heterosexuals, though feminists might get a bit worked up over a couple of them based on the preview stills).

Seriously, YouTube, did you cave to some homophobic complaints? Please reinstate Andrew Christian’s “Pink Paradise,”  which is simply a sexy underwear ad, the same as this one.

DMCA Abuse on YouTube, Punk Bands Targeted

 

In recent months there has been a slew of DMCA takedowns on YouTube affecting numerous punk bands.

Apparently SST Records, owned by Greg Ginn, has been utilizing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to claim copyright infringement on a vast number of videos that utilize brief clips of music from Black Flag, including skateboard videos made by fans. Well, gosh, that’s what copyright holders can do, though it does seem sort of mean.

SST has also claimed multiple copyright takedowns on bands that have nothing to do with SST, including X, Fear, Sin 34, Lower Class Brats, Puzzled Panthers, and the Adolescents. Also affected, videos made by fans under Fair Use, utilizing snippets of  songs.

YouTube user Creamy GoodnessX writes that SST:

have since admitted that they never even viewed the allegedly offending videos before issuing the strikes! Rather, they used automated software in their campaign, in many cases resulting in false DMCA takedowns of videos that were legitimately using copyrighted material under the fair use doctrine. Several users permanently lost their channels (i.e., termination), and others permanently lost special privileges like being able to upload videos longer than 15 minutes.

YouTube provides copyright holders with a Content ID program. YouTube account holders who use the software must submit title lists and audio files, as well as proof of copyright. The program can be used to:

  • Identify user-uploaded videos comprised entirely OR partially of their content, and
  • Choose, in advance, what they want to happen when those videos are found. Make money from them. Get stats on them. Or block them from YouTube altogether.>
  • Reduce Infringement. Educate your fans about your copyright preferences and prevent your content from being distributed on YouTube without your permission.
  • Fully Automated. Once you’re set up, Content ID will identify, claim, and apply policies to YouTube videos for you.

The DMCA takedown of “Democracy” by the Adolescents on Frontier Records, which also handles their publishing via Bug Music, indicated that a company called Love Cat Music had also claimed DMCA rights, along with SST. I wrote to Love Cat, which has only one punk band, Reagan Youth, in its catalog. Owner Randy Frisch replied:

i do not know why LoveCat Music is mentioned here.   Could be a mistake.

we have sent takedown notices with respect to other songs in our
catalog that we do in fact control.

But not this one

Is it possible that YouTube’s Content ID program is faulty and can’t tell punk songs apart? If so, major fail.

So I wrote to SST Record’s owner Greg Ginn and asked him about YouTube. At first he said

I don’t know much about YouTube.

Then I asked about fan videos being posted on YouTube. His response:

I then asked if he enforced copyright. He replied:

At times.

Then:

Greg did not write back, and blocked me on Facebook, making it impossible to contact him further. Ginn has been a brutal enforcer of SST’s copyrights, though oddly he showed disdain for U2′s when SST released Negativland’s single U2 (Full disclosure, I worked for a branch of SST Records in the mid-1980s. In 1991 I wrote an analysis of the U2/Negativland controversy for U2′s magazine Propaganda; when that piece was repurposed as a press release, I was paid. I know many former SST Records artists, as well as people affiliated with U2).

When a video is falsely DMCA’ed on YouTube, it is the responsibility of the real copyright owner to prove they are the rightful copyright holder. It can take up to 10 days for the DMCAed video to be restored.  Alerted to the Adolescents’ video takedown, Frontier Records’ owner and founder Lisa Fancher worked with YouTube, sending in the correct forms to restore the video.  Often bands do not know their videos have been taken down, or why, as in the case of Lower Class Brats:

How could they get our videos taken down off of YouTube and why would they do something like this? I am completely baffled…
I look forward to your reply, thanks….

Since it can take over a week to restore a video, DMCA-ing  a video is an effective means of harassment or of silencing speech, as seen during Anonymous’ Project Chanology when videos shot at protests and/or using Fair Use clips of Scientology videos, or the organization’s logos, were DMCA-ed.

If YouTube’s content identifying software is at fault for false DMCAs, then those using it should definitely alert YouTube about the glitches since it looks pretty creepy and bad to take down videos for which you do not own the copyrights. However, if  people are purposefully DMCAing  videos out of spite, and have a long record of false claims, perhaps YouTube should treat them with the same vigorous enforcement they show to copyright abusers.

YouTube’s PR department did not respond to my questions about the accuracy of its Content ID software, however they did say:

Unfortunately, in some cases, individuals abuse our notification process by submitting fraudulent claims.  When we become aware of this, we take action by reinstating the videos and/or accounts affected, and taking appropriate action against the individual responsible.

The PR person followed up to my questions about Content ID being possibly faulty with this:

You can read more about both of these things are our Copyright Center. Thanks!

Which is where I started in the first place.

Pakistan Clamps Down on Internet Because Today is “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day”

Today is International Draw Mohammad Day, and the government of Pakistan is pretty angry about the Facebook group and related YouTube channels. Actually some folks on Facebook are are a little disgusted, too. One guy wrote:

This is just primitive primate politics — one troop of monkeys looking for an excuse to fling poop at another. I understand wanting to show the radical extremists that we aren’t afraid of them, but what is the point in causing anger and disgust in the vast majority of Muslims who are just regular folks?

It is sort of poking a rabid badger with a stick, and I’d rather spend my time making fun of other things. Dentists like Orly Taitz and Don McLeroy for example.

The Washington Post reports that links to over 450 internet sites have been shut down by the Pakistani government:

An Internet clampdown in Pakistan widened Thursday as the government blocked access to the YouTube Web site, citing its “growing sacrilegious content.” The move came one day after the civilian government ordered Internet service providers to restrict access to the Facebook social networking site, which drew fire in Pakistan over a page encouraging people to post caricatures Thursday of the Prophet Muhammad….

Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, also appeared to be blocked in Pakistan on Thursday, but it was not clear whether the government had restricted access or there was a glitch in the system. Access from smartphones to Facebook, YouTube and other sites with “blasphemous content” was also blocked, according to one major cellphone company, Mobilink.

The Facebook group claims:

They can’t kill us all, there is safety in numbers

Okay. Sure.  And

In Islamabad, about 100 young men belonging to the Islami Jamiat Talba, the student wing of a religious political party, carried signs bearing slogans such as, “Death to Those Responsible for Blasphemy.” They called Facebook a tool for spreading anti-Islamic sentiments.

“If Facebook and other such tools continue to be used for blasphemy by the Western nations, then we will target their embassies,” said Faisal Javed, 21.

I think something is blasphemy if the person doing it is of that faith. How can you blaspheme against something you don’t believe in?  And if you’re a really good member of that religion you wouldn’t be doing anything blasphemous anyway–whether it’s looking at a forbidden website or frolicking illicitly–right Messrs. Ensign, Souder, Rekers and Sanders?

(all artwork: Dan Lacey)


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