Last week, I wrote about the controversy entailed by the R-rating the MPAA has given to the documentary Bully, effectively putting it outside the reach of most of the young people it addresses. Now the film censor board in British Columbia has given the film an all-ages PG rating, calling the MPAA's judgment into question.
“Last night, I learned of the B.C. board’s decision to grant Bully a PG-rating. I am thrilled that kids of all ages can now join their parents, teachers, social work advocates and leaders to bring about change for this deeply important cause,” Hirsch said Wednesday in a statement.
Yesterday, I wrote about Jon Corbett's video, in which he demonstrates a method that appears to make it easy to smuggle metal objects (including weapons) through a TSA full-body scanner. The TSA has responded by saying that they still trust the machines, but they won't say why, "for obvious security reasons."
As Wired's David Kravets points out, Corbett is only the most recent critic to take a skeptical look at the efficacy of the expensive, invasive machinery. Other critics include the Government Accountability Office ("the devices might be ineffective") and the Journal of Transportation Security ("terrorists might fool the Rapiscan machines by taping explosive devices to their stomachs").
Corbett responded to the TSA's we-can't-tell-you-or-we'd-have-to-kill-you rebuttal with "You don't believe it? Try it."
“These machines are safe,” Lorie Dankers, a TSA spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview.
In a blog post, the government’s response was that, “For obvious security reasons, we can’t discuss our technology’s detection capability in detail, however TSA conducts extensive testing of all screening technologies in the laboratory and at airports prior to rolling them out to the entire field.”
An activist group called Invisible Children has produced a 29-minute documentary on Joseph Kony, the leader of Uganda's horrific Lord's Resistance Army, which recruits by kidnapping children and beating and abusing them until they serve as soldiers. Invisible Children hopes that viewers of the video will be inspired to "go viral" with the campaign in a coordinated action on April 20 that, they hope, will spur the world's governments into taking decisive action against the LRA.
Wired's Spencer Ackerman describes the early success of the campaign and the criticisms that it has drawn from other human rights activists who say the video is "obfuscating" and accuse it of oversimplifying the complexities of US military intervention.
The visually sophisticated documentary tells the story of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s brutal history in Uganda — it doesn’t say much about Kony’s flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic — mostly through the eyes of Jacob, a child refugee whose brother was killed by the militia. At one point, the boy says he would prefer to die rather than to live in the world Kony has made. It hits like an emotional sledgehammer.
And that lays the foundation for the campaign the movie essentially advertises. The nonprofit group behind it, Invisible Children, supports President Obama’s recent deployment of 100 military advisers to Uganda to help its army hunt Kony, a decision that required years of grassroots demands from humanitarian activists. In order to make sure the pressure keeps up, and Kony is ultimately arrested — this year — Invisible Children wants to plaster the cities of the world with red, visually striking KONY 2012 posters, stickers and t-shirts.
The video is essentially a plea to take the campaign viral in time for a planned action on April 20, in which Invisible Children hopes to mass-advertise KONY 2012 that night, globally, so the world will “wake up to hundreds of thousands of posters.” Action kits containing stickers, posters, bracelets, information and t-shirts are going for a $30 donation on the group’s website. And the filmmakers want to enlist celebrities, athletes and politicians for the campaign, everyone from Sen. John Kerry to Bono to Mark Zuckerberg.
"Origami: Art + Mathematics" is a new exhibit opening at UC Santa Cruz on April 8. The exhibit is focused on computational origami, in honor of the late UCSC computer scientist and mathematical origami pioneer David Huffman. You may recognize some of the artists in the show from their appearance in the fantastic documentary film, "Between The Folds," which apparently inspired this new exhibit. It runs through June 16 at the UCSC Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery. Above, two pieces from the show: (left) "Black Man" by Eric Joisel; (right) "Suigintu," from "Rozen Maiden" anime and manga, by Brian Chan. "Origami exhibit at Cowell College"
But in that flood of attention, one set of voices has gone largely ignored: Africans themselves. Writers, journalists, activists; people of African descent who live and work and think about life on the continent. In this post, we'll round up some of their replies to #Kony2012.
• Above, a video by Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan multimedia journalist who works on "media, women, peace and conflict issues." She writes, "This is me talking about the danger of portraying people with one single story and using old footage to cause hysteria when it could have been possible to get to DRC and other affected countries get a fresh perspective and also include other actors."
• Ethiopian writer and activist Solome Lemma writes that she is disturbed by the "dis-empowering and reductive narrative" evidenced in Invisible Children's promotional videos: "[It] paints the people as victims, lacking agency, voice, will, or power. It calls upon an external cadre of American students to liberate them by removing the bad guy who is causing their suffering. Well, this is a misrepresentation of the reality on the ground. Fortunately, there are plenty of examples of child and youth advocates who have been fighting to address the very issues at the heart of IC’s work." Update: Here's another from Lemma on "Seven steps for critical reflection." She urges those concerned about human rights in Africa to "think before you give."
• Musa Okwonga, a " football writer, poet and musician of Ugandan descent," writes in an Independent op-ed: “I understand the anger and resentment at Invisible Children’s approach, which with its paternalism has unpleasant echoes of colonialism. I will admit to being perturbed by its apparent top-down prescriptiveness, when so much diligent work is already being done at Northern Uganda’s grassroots... Watching the video, though, I was concerned at the simplicity of the approach that Invisible Children seemed to have taken."
The Department of Justice is planning to sue Apple Inc. and five big US publishers for collusion around e-book pricing. According to the Wall Street Journal, the DoJ has "warned" Apple Inc., CBS Corp.'s Simon & Schuster Inc., Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group. Pearson PLC's Penguin Group (USA), Macmillan, a unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, and HarperCollins Publishers Inc., a unit of News Corp. that there will be an antitrust case brought against them. "US Warns Apple, Publishers" (WSJ)
Here's a scathing editorial from Public Knowledge's Michael Weinberg on the Warner Home Entertainment announcement of a new "service" that allows you to legally rip your DVDs by driving over to a special DVD-ripping depot and paying a fee to have them converted to DRM-locked formats that only play in approved devices. Warner calls this "safe and convenient."
You did read that last paragraph correctly. The head of Warner Home Entertainment Group thinks that an easy, safe way to convert movies you already own on DVD to other digital formats is to take your DVDs, find a store that will perform this service, drive to that store, find the clerk who knows how to perform the service, hope that the “DVD conversion machine” is not broken, stand there like a chump while the clerk “safely” converts your movie to a digital file that may only play on studio-approved devices, drive home, and hope everything worked out. Oh, and the good news is that you would only need to pay a reasonable (per-DVD?) price for this pleasure.
To be fair, this plan is easy, safe (safe?), and reasonably priced compared to the movie studio’s current offer to people who want to take movies they own on DVD and turn them into a digital file to watch on, say, their iPad. That offer is a lawsuit, because personal copying of a movie on DVD requires circumventing DRM, which is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Furthermore, right now all of the major studios are arguing passionately (pdf) to stop the Copyright Office from granting a exemption that would make personal space shifting of movies on DVD legal.
Try to picture the real alternative to this hokum – people making their own copies of their movies at home. Luckily you won’t have to use your imagination too much because people making their own copies of media they own is exactly what people do with their CDs. They download a free program, make a copy of the CD at home, put the MP3 files on whatever device they want, and go on with their lives.
Wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas and his brother Matt devised a remote-controlled rover outfitted with a DSLR camera to get up close and personal with elephants, lions, and buffalo. After their first trip to Africa with their BeetleCam, they improved upon the design with a sturdier exoskeleton, telerobotic camera tilt, and HD video. The men have since gone back to Africa and captured some amazing lion images. If you want a BeetleCam of your own, they'll custom build it for you starting at GBP £1,250. BeetleCam Project 2011(via IEEE Spectrum)
In Changsha, China, a 30-story hotel project went from blueprint and prefab parts to finished building in fifteen days. Some are questioning how the construction project could possibly be safe, but the builder defends it. From reporter Jonathan Kaiman, the Los Angeles Times' man in Changsha:
In early December, Liu Zhangning was tending her cabbage patch when she saw a tall yellow construction crane in the distance. At night, the work lights made it seem like day.
Fifteen days later, a 30-story hotel towered over her village on the outskirts of the city like a glass and steel obelisk.
"I couldn't really believe it," Liu said. "They built that thing in under a month."
To promote its new B-Class car, Mercedes made it "invisible." Essentially, they draped one side of it in a fabric of LEDs that displayed an image of the scene behind the car, creating the illusion of invisibility. (This approach is similar to the active camouflage prototypes demonstrated by the University of Tokyo and elsewhere.) While a startling demo, it's not very practical -- it required 1,100 pounds of gear inside and $263,000 worth of LEDs.
"Invisible Mercedes brings James Bond technology to life" (Motoramic, thanks Gabe Adiv!)
Mark Newport, whose hand-knit superhero costumes have been mentioned here before, has a gallery show at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville's Ewing Gallery. I really love these pieces -- they'd make great jammies (or, without the legs, hoodies).