(Photo: Joseph Kony, via Reuters)
On his personal blog, Marc DuBois of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) writes about the impact of the viral Kony 2012 campaign on the work of long-established humanitarian efforts in Africa.
"Most madmen love the idea of fame, so Joseph Kony’s wet dream just came true," writes DuBois.
Many aid workers are simultaneously offended by the project and jealous of its unprecedented reach. At the time of this blog post, the promotional video for Invisible Children's fundraising/"awareness" campaign about the fugitive African rebel leader has exceeded 70 million views, making it the fastest-growing viral video in internet history.
Snip from DuBois' blog post:
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So why, really, are we aid insiders so bothered? It’s the big green monster. Is there another charity whose message has captivated so many so fast? About six months ago, my niece “Lisa” in Chicago excitedly asked me to contribute to Invisible Children. At the time, I’d never heard of it. I poked around. I can’t say I was taken by the cause, but I couldn’t help feeling envious of IC’s having so effectively reached Lisa, usually more interested in dance and boys. These young upstarts at IC are the next big thing. And we aren’t.
Why? Well, for one, they have a simple message that people grasp. For another, good looks. More importantly, Invisible Children has discovered what the entertainment industry figured out a decade ago. It’s not about us old timers. It’s not people who read the Philip Roth or contribute conscientiously to their pension fund.
Craig Davis Pinson, a composer who is a Boston Conservatory student, writes in the liner notes for the video embedded above:
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This is a set of variations written on the melody heard in the Youtube video Nyan Cat. It is an experiment, in which I tried to find the limits of how far I could transform the melody before it begins losing its identity. The theme is known as Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya!, originally posted by username daniwellP on the Japanese video sharing website, Nico Nico Douga. The Nyan Cat phenomenom has become ingrained in popular culture, and amazes me both in its sheer absurdity and its freakishly colossal popularity. However, fascinating as they are to me, the origins of the theme are not played upon in this composition. Instead, I treated Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya! as pure musical material from which to generate music. The motivation to use this theme came from my repeated viewings of the video, and slowly realizing that it is a strangely alluring melody. Therefore, this is my tribute to Nyan Cat. Credit goes to daniwell-p for creating this theme, prguitarman for creating the gif animation, and saraj00n for joining them. Theme used for non-commercial purposes as per daniwell-P's request.
On a large scale, the work is structured along a simple alternation pattern. The theme and its variations alternate, similarly to rondo form. However, the theme is progressively dissolved, meaning that each time it returns it contains less percentage of the source material. This chipping-away continues until there's nothing recognizable left.
The Breaded Cats (or Breading Cats, or Cat Breading) website has been making the rounds for some weeks now. Like a fine wine, or a cat, but not a loaf of bread, it seems to improve with age.
Cat Breading How To:
1) Take a piece of bread
2) Cut a hole approximately 1 inch larger than your cat's head. This trips some people up. Remember: the bread has to fit around not just the cat's head, but it's ears, too.
3) Gently place the bread around your cat's head.
Warning: NSFGF (Not safe for the gluten-free).
Finally, a science-themed entry in the "Shit ______ say" meme. Science journalist Ferris Jabr and friends put this together and it's pretty funny. Reminds me a conversation I had earlier this week with a friend about her brother's social insect research. Another thing scientists say, "The hissing cockroach experiment is not going according to plan."
Bonus: Watch for a slide that references a previous scienceLOL you may remember.
If you followed my tweets from the markup session for SOPA in the House of Representatives, you know how frustrating it was to watch: you had these lawmakers blithely dismissing the security concerns of the likes of Vint Cerf, saying things like, "I'm no technology nerd, but I don't believe it." In other words: "I'm a perfect ignoramus, but I find it convenient to disregard the world's foremost experts." Another congressman from Florida kept saying things like "No one can explain to me how this bill harms political debate or academic freedom."
The markup hearing ended early yesterday, surprising many who concluded that the early adjournment meant that SOPA was off the table until Congress reconvened in 2012. But committee chair Lamar Smith quietly announced that there would be a special session on the 21st of December (when the press and opponents of the bill are likely to be distracted by the impending holiday) to finish up the bill's markup.
I think I've got the perfect metaphor for the hearings: there's a scene in the Disneyland Jungle Boat Cruise where you pass the "gorilla camp," in which a tribe of gorillas have taken over an explorer's camp, upending the jeep and taking deadly possession of the firearms. One gorilla is staring up the barrel of a rifle, while another is firing a pistol into a collection of floating explosive barrels in the river.
That image is what I keep returning to as I listen to committee members blithely dismiss the experts who warn that this bill will undermine civic debate, academic freedom, and the security of the Internet. Read the rest
Rep. Jared Polis (Colorado Democrat who previously founded BlueMountainArts.com) has entered the complete lyrics of "The Internet is for Porn" into the official record of the SOPA debate. Read the rest
The nice people at the Guardian invited me to write an op-ed about the meme-ification of Lt. John Pike's unforgettable act of brutality against UC Davis students last Friday.
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Photoshop out the students from that picture with your mind. Forget about Pike's uniform, let's say he's just wearing street clothes. Now, instead of a policeman spraying a less-lethal chemical weapon down the throats of peacefully seated 20-year-olds, you might be able to interpret this tableau as a figure sauntering through a garden, spraying weeds. Or maybe he's your paunchy, moustached uncle, nonchalantly dousing bugs in the basement with insecticide.
One way the internet deals with that kind of upsetting dissonance is to mock it. And that's what the internet has done with Pike. The "casually pepper-spraying cop" is now a meme, a kind of folk art or shared visual joke that is open to sharing and reinterpretation by anyone. This particular meme has spread with unusual velocity – in part, I imagine, because the subject matter is just as weird as it is upsetting.
Even Kamran Loghman, one of the men who developed pepper spray as a weapon with the FBI in the 1980s, had a hard time reconciling it. "I have never seen such an inappropriate and improper use of chemical agents," Loghman told the New York Times. And Loghman might add "insouciant" to that list of adjectives. I mean, look at the guy. He's not braced for imminent attack by a foe; he does not move with tension as if navigating a hostile environment.
By artist and illustrator Bob Staake, whose work you may have seen on the cover of the New Yorker. Gonna have to add this one to the meme-stack. As I post this, word's coming in that the ACLU has just delivered a letter of condemnation to UC Davis chancellor Katehi. Read the rest
Today's weird animal viral video is, like all great examples of the genre, equal parts funny, creepy, cute, and sad. Apparently, the cat in this video is having a fear/anxiety/aggressive reaction to the presence of a young girl (sounds like under 5 years old?), a friend of the daughter of the guy who shot the video. Or I don't know, hairball?
I've never seen this behavior before, and wonder how the owners might best deal with it. But also, I couldn't stop laughing.
And is that a Maine Coon? They're usually so mellow and sociable.