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"
- TED 2008: Robert Lang, origami expert - Boing Boing
- Shu Sugamata's origami spaceships - Boing Boing
- Origami alphabet - Boing Boing
- Origami tesselated Space Invader - Boing Boing
- American origami from the early Depression - Boing Boing
- Origami hats for the faces on the money - Boing Boing
- Dollar bill origami animals - Boing Boing
- Origami D&D miniatures - Boing Boing
- Tiny origami folded with telesurgery equipment - Boing Boing
(Updated with additions, March 10, 2012. Here's a Twitter list, so you can follow all of the African writers mentioned in this post who are on Twitter.)
The internets are all a-flutter with reactions to Kony 2012, a high-velocity viral fundraising campaign created by the "rebel soul dream evangelists" at Invisible Children to "raise awareness" about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and child soldiers. As noted in my previous post here on Boing Boing, the project has many critics. There is a drinking game, there are epic lolpictorials, and a chorus of idiots on Facebook.
There are indications the project may be about stealth-evangelizing Christianity. The Invisible Children filmmakers have responded to some of the criticism. Media personalities and celebrities are duking it out as the campaign (and now, backlash) spreads.
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."
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."
Architects and engineers weigh in, too. Read the story here.
Video Link: Time-lapse of the project, showing the prefabricated building assembled on-site.
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!)
Photojournalist (and author) Erin Siegal has a wonderful photo-essay up on the The Reuters Photographers Blog about "Fast Friends," a group that adopts/rescues "retiring" greyhound dogs that have been used in racing in Tijuana, Mexico. On Erin's personal blog, there are more photos that didn't fit in. What beautiful creatures.
These lovely conjoined tortoises are on exhibit in Kiev, Ukraine. From the Los Angeles Times:
Dmitry Tkachev, who organized the Kiev exhibition where the tortoise is on display, told Russian state media that the two heads cannot see each other.
“Each has its own character, so they often want to crawl in different directions,” he explained to Ria Novosti, the Russian international news agency.
- X-ray of two-headed snake - Boing Boing
- Two-headed albino snake in Venice freak show - Boing Boing
- Two-headed crochet snake - Boing Boing
- Two-headed calf (RIP) - Boing Boing
- Two-headed fish likely caused by toxic water - Boing Boing
- Extra-special two-headed turtle - Boing Boing
- Two-headed animal exhibit in St. Louis - Boing Boing
- Two-headed Cuban tortoise - Boing Boing
- Two-headed turtle - Boing Boing
This gentleman, Blake Oren Robinson, was arrested at a grocery store for "committing criminal mischief with the cheese," according to an Iowa City police criminal complaint. Robinson was apparently caught on video stealing beer, chips, and a jar of Tostitos Salsa Con Queso Medium Cheese. He reportedly went into the restroom to enjoy his snack and then smeared the cheese all over the floor and walls. Police say that Robinson was… (drumroll)… intoxicated. From Iowa City Patch:
"Coralville Man Arrested at Grocery Store for 'Criminal Mischief With The Cheese'"
Investigation by the police found Robinson with some of the beer still in his pocket. Robinson allegedly admitted to spreading the cheese because "he thought it would be funny…"
Police charged Robinson with public intoxication, third-degree theft and criminal mischief -- all misdemeanors.
Via ComicsAlliance blog, news that 'Life With Archie' features a character with breast cancer in this month's new issue.
"That character is Cheryl Blossom, the redheaded spoiler in Betty and Veronica's love triangle with Archie."
More in an Associated Press item here.
As an authority on the subject, I can tell you the artist definitely got the "chemo-fatigue" look down right.
The ACLU has brought suit against the Minnewaska (Minnesota) Area Schools and Pope County over invasions of students' privacy relating to a pair of incidents. In the first incident, a 12-year-old student was disciplined for complaining on Facebook that she "hated" a hall monitor who was "mean" (the school characterized this as "bullying"). In the second instance, a sheriff's deputy and school administrators required the student to turn over her Facebook password after her boyfriend's mother complained that the student and her boyfriend had been talking about sex on the social network.
In both instances, the student used her own, off-school computer to make the contentious remarks, after school hours.
The ACLU claimed a sheriff's deputy was present at the time, but there was no warrant. The group claimed this violated the girl's right to privacy and right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
"She was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while school administrators were scouring her private communications," attorney Wally Hilke said in a statement. "These adults traumatized this minor without any regard for her rights."
The girl's mother filed the lawsuit on her daughter's behalf.
Apart from unspecified damages, the suit seeks a court order "restrain[ing] school officials from attempts to regulate or discipline students based on speech made outside of school hours and off school property."