Watch all these local TV newsreaders chant the same Amazon puff piece (Update: Amazon statement)

At least 10 local TV stations ran a "news" report written and produced by Amazon, reports The Courier-News. The video was provided by Amazon, and only one station disclosed that the "reporter" was an Amazon spokesman. The report, as you have perhaps guessed, praises Amazon effusively.

While most TV news professionals have scoffed at the idea of running Amazon-provided content as news, at least 10 stations across the country ran some form of the package on their news broadcasts. The package—you can view the script Amazon provided to news stations here—was produced by Amazon spokesperson Todd Walker. Only one station, Toledo ABC affiliate WTVG, acknowledged that Walker was an Amazon employee, not a news reporter.

Bad as it is, TV (and especially radio) news has always been like this. They're studios, not newsrooms. They get content from newswires, parent companies, any old source that has it nicely packaged. When I was a smalltown reporter, you'd hear the newspaper rustling as they read it on air.

It's true that it's getting worse, perhaps because of consolidation: Watch countless American news anchors mindlessly intone the same propaganda script

UPDATE: Amazon's Alyssa Bronikowski emailed a statement, reproduced below:

Statement – “We welcome reporters into our buildings and it’s misleading to suggest otherwise. This type of video was created to share an inside look into the health and safety measures we’ve rolled out in our buildings and was intended for reporters who for a variety of reasons weren’t able to come tour one of our sites themselves.”

On background (no direct quotes, generic paraphrasing ok, Amazon spokesperson attribution fine):

• We welcome reporters to tour our buildings and see the health and safety measures we’ve rolled out for themselves.
• This type of video news release is not new, many companies create them and distribute them over the wire, and we were transparent that this was coming from Amazon.
• Some newsrooms are not sending people on location during this time but still want to see and understand what’s happening at Amazon so in some cases journalists choose to pick up this type of content.
• This was not a promotional video and no one who participated in this video was paid.

Fraudsters are shaking down YouTubers. Won't the company do anything to stop them?

Game From Scratch reports a harrowing experience — an anonymous threat to pay bitcoin or have false claims made about their game dev tutorials to YouTube — and a horrifying one to go with it: YouTube's automatic cooperation with the fraudster, total lack of human recourse, and loss of access to his channel after refusing to pay off the scammer.

Each time it was taken down, I appealed and it would be restored. After I didn’t pay the $50 in bitcoin, I started getting Circumvention of Technology notices for 3 of my videos. That ultimately resulted in a community strike and loss of access to my channel for a week (or until appealed). Thankfully those three takedowns were reversed in about 2 hours and channel privileges were restored.

Today I was just waiting for YouTube to restore my 2 year old Animate CC video… then to my shock, it was reviewed and found to be in violation!

The scam isn't complex or daring. You can do it by following a sheet of simple, foolproof instructions. It's barely more complex than demanding money from a YouTuber, filing complaints if they don't pay up, and cackling as YouTube automatically takes down the YouTuber's videos or even suspends their account access. The options for the scammer go way beyond ContentID. The device in this case was a Circumvention of Technology policy.

Quietly paying off fraudsters seems to be a fact of life now for successful YouTubers. I bet some of the top ones are getting absolutely hosed.

A touring Bolivian orchestra is stranded in a German castle surrounded by 23 packs of wolves

Earlier this spring, more than 20 members of Orquesta Experimental de Instrumentos Nativos pan flute orchestra left their homes in Bolivia and embarked on a European tour. They arrived in Germany on March 10, right as that country's government imposed a ban on large gatherings to fight the spread of coronavirus. Within days, their bus had broken down, and all of their performances had been cancelled, and their own government back home in Bolivia announced that it would close its own borders, leaving the orchestra stranded. (more…)

Can a bobby pin be traded up to a house? A woman on TikTok is trying to find out

Remember that guy who traded one red paperclip up to a house in Saskatchewan? Well, now there's an anonymous Bay Area woman on TikTok who is looking to trade a bobby pin to get one. Since May 18, the day she started the Trade Me Project, she's gone from a bobby pin to a pair of earrings to four margarita glasses to a vacuum. Her latest trade up? She cleaned up that Bissell and traded it for a snowboard.

Follow the Trade Me Project on TikTok to see her next trade-ups and DM her on Instagram if you have something you want to trade with her.


Trading my way from a bobby pin to a house #fyp

♬ original sound - trademeproject

screengrabs via Trade Me Project/IG


Winning "Wear a Mask" PSA is a real love letter to NYC

Earlier this month, New Yorkers were challenged by their governor's office to create a public service announcement to "help communicate why it is so important to wear a mask to stop the spread of coronavirus." Over 600 submissions were received and were voted on by more than 200,000 people. The winning ad, Bunny Lake Films' "We Love NY" captures just the right vibe: it's positive, inclusive, and very "New York."

Gothamist reports:

While the "We Love NY" PSA by Bunny Lake Films (from directors Celine Danhier and Aliya Naumoff) received the most votes and became the official winner, the state will actually run two ads. "You Can Still Smile" by Blue Slate Films/Natalia Bougadellis came in second, just around 500 votes behind first place.

See a few more of the PSAs here.

Executive extortion goes domestic in "The Don, Part II"

The two upcoming Tom the Dancing Bug books, Tom the Dancing Bug: Into the Trumpverse, and The Super-Fun-Pak Comix Reader, are now available for order, but will only be available by online pre-order.

Information about the books, including how to pre-order, and special offers here. The deadline for ordering is June 30, 2020.

"Ruben Bolling has been sending me his secret messages for years, in the form of comics printed first on paper, and then, once paper became extinct, on the internet. I don't know exactly what he's trying to tell me, except he seems to know about everything I find funny, delightful, strange and inexplicable to get my attention, from obscure literary references to negging deep dish pizza. … I still obsessively keep reading, not just because he's hilarious, but because someday I hope to find out who this Tom the bug is, and why he is dancing."
-Peter Sagal

JOIN Tom the Dancing Bug's INNER HIVE. Get exclusive access to comics before they are published, sneak peeks, insider scoops, and lots of other stuff. JOIN TODAY.

FOLLOW @RubenBolling on the Twitters and a Face Book perhaps some Insta-grams, and even my/our MeWe.

READ more Tom the Dancing Bug comics on Boing Boing.

Is this STAR WARS Cookie Cutter supposed to be a Jawa, or a poop?

We've been cleaning out and sorting through some stuff we had in storage, which I re-discovered this generous gift that someone (my mother-in-law?) bought me at some point in time. My sister picked it up, asking why I had a poop-shaped cookie cutter in the pile with my Star Wars cookie cutters. Normally, this would be a valid question to ask — it is certainly reasonable to think that I would own both poop and Star Wars cookie cutters. But then I had to remind her that, no, that was in fact, a Jawa, a member of the Tatooinian trader race that's also kind of uncomfortably anti-Semitic once you start to think about it.

Now, I'm not sure why this particular cookie cutter set came with a Jawa. An Ewok would have probably made more sense (while still remaining slightly poop-like). I can't find this particularly set available anywhere else on the Internet; William-Sonoma sells an 8-pack of Star Wars cookie cutters with the exact same Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3pO molds — but alas, no Poop Jawa. Walmart sells a lone Poop Jawa cookie cutter for a whopping $18. I'm assuming that someone at Williams-Sonoma decided to discontinue the Poop Jawa — not because it looks like a poop, but because, who the hell wants a Jawa cookie cutter anyway?

There is one link on Amazon for a Star Wars Press-and-Stamp Cookie Cutters, Set of 4 Droids and Aliens: R2-D2, C-3PO, Jawa and Chewbacca. Unfortunately, it has no pictures, and it's not available anyway. But there are 3 reviews, including one who writes, "Got this as a present for my brother and sister in law and they loved it. There not just boring punch out cookie cutters they give the cookie the extra detail of Star Wars."

That Poop Jawa definitely comes with some kind of extra detail, yup.

Ancient Rome in five-minute animated fly-through

It's hard to imagine what places like ancient Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome might have looked like in all of their glory. New Historia tries to shed some light on what everyday life might have looked and felt like with their series of 3D "cinematic animations."

Here is their five-minute fly-through over ancient Rome. No idea why they chose to not paint the statues. It's always been my understanding that the statuary was painted in bright, vivid colors.

Image: YouTube

This emergency kit has all the provisions for the day you truly need them

“It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” - “Lonesome Dove,” Larry McMurtry

If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that we need to be prepared now more than ever. Emergency situations can happen quickly and there’s no telling when you may need provisions to handle any manner of spur-of-the-moment event.

And as with most emergencies, it’s always tough to know exactly when they’ll happen or exactly what you may need to get through it. 

That’s why The GoBox 3-Day Emergency Kit is such a smart, practical way of staying prepared for any eventuality.

The sturdy box is about the size of a hardcover book -- and the whole box can fit unobtrusively on a bookshelf in your home or office for safe-keeping. But in the event of an emergency, it’s jam-packed full of useful items that could help you or someone else get through anything from a medical emergency to a power outage to a lockdown.

For poor air quality, you’ve got a KN95 respirator mask. If anyone’s hurt, you’ve got a first-aid kit with dressings and medications. If it’s cold, you’ve got a Mylar emergency space blanket. If it’s wet, you’ve got a rain poncho. If it’s dark, you’ve got an LED flashlight and a glow stick. And if your emergency looks like it might not end anytime soon, you’ve got a deck of playing cards to help pass the time.

The kit also comes with essential provisions, including a 3-day supply of water and food rations, all with a shelf life of up to five years.

A high decibel whistle, a notepad and pencil, matches, a candle, it’s all included in this catch-all disaster pack -- and that doesn’t even cover everything stuffed into this monster kit. It’s also perfect to stash in the trunk of your car for that crazy day when any one of these items may just turn into an actual life-saver.

This everything-but-the-kitchen-sink super-pack is usually priced at $100, but with this deal, you can get all this emergency on-the-go protection for $10 off, just $89.99.

Prices are subject to change.


GoBox 3-Day Emergency Kit with KN95 Respirator Mask - $89.99

Be prepared for $89.99

Talking comics with One Man War on Terror cartoonist Benjamin Marra

This interview presents a conversation with Grammy-nominated comic book creator, cartoonist and the future of comics history, Benjamin Marra (TERROR ASSAULTER: O.M.W.O.T. (One Man War On Terror), NIGHT BUSINESS, AMERICAN BLOOD, BLADES & LAZERS) about his work, comics, and new daily strip, WHAT WE MEAN BY YESTERDAY.

Jeffery Klaehn: For audiences new to you and your work, how might you describe your “brand” as a comic creator, Ben?

Benjamin Marra: It’s difficult for me to self-assess my own brand. Probably easier for an external set of eyes to make a more accurate accounting. But I’d describe myself as a creator focused on genre and manipulating or subverting genre tropes. The themes of my work revolve around ideas of America and American Pop Culture. As a brand I’m a bit of a provocateur and permanently stationed on the underground side of comics. I’d say my comics are Gonzo comics that stem from the creative, subversive attitudes of the 60s and 70s.

JK: When you think about your own passion for comics and comic art, what immediately comes to mind for you?

Ben Marra: Drawing with ink and telling stories. Those are two things that I obsess over practically every minute of the day.

JK: I was thinking today that mainstream comics should be available in magazine size format at 100-page each, on slick paper, maybe for a $7.99US or $8.99US price point. Some could perhaps be printed on lower quality paper and offered at cheaper prices. And all could be distributed via comic shops, newsstands, and digitally, simultaneously. I’m thinking back to how popular the magazine format was in the 1970s and also of those great monthly Shonen Jump print anthologies I used to be able to pick up on late night trips to local supermarkets.  What are your thoughts about formats and distribution of comics today, Ben?

Ben Marra: I agree with your vision of a comics magazine, except it should be printed on cheap paper to bring the cover price down as much as possible. It’s the stories that are important, not the paper stock. As far as my thoughts on distribution, I love the floppy monthly pamphlet as a vessel for serialized stories. But I think the Big Two have undermined its effectiveness with their business practices. I think the pamphlet comic should cost less and be found in as many retail spaces as possible. I guess I’m describing what it was like to buy comics back in the 70s and 80s. Maybe it’s foolish to think we can’t go back to that place. But I think there are subscription models that Chuck Forsman and Michel Fiffe have employed that are successful with a 24-page pamphlet comic. I don’t have blinders on for pamphlets however. Longform comics appear to be the future (if not present) of successful comics formats for distribution. And I’m all for webcomics. I’ve been doing a daily strip on my Instagram and I think it’s how I will create all my comics going forward. Any distribution method that doesn’t solely rely on the graces and professionalism of Diamond is a step in the right direction.

JK: How do you approach promotion?  I love your video trailer for NIGHT BUSINESS.

Ben Marra: Thanks! My approach to promotion has been based around this alternate-version character of myself. I take author photos for the back of my comics where I pretend to be this insane, out-of-touch guy who’s creating these stories. People really connect with those author photos. Sometimes I think they like the author photos more than the comics. With the videos I’ve made I’m trying to expand on that character a little more. I want to get across a bit of the Gonzo flavor I think my comics have. I want to give people a taste of that with the video ads I’ve created. I want the ads to support the overall feel of the “brand.”

JK: Looking at your body of work to date, what works are you most proud of?

Ben Marra: It’s difficult to say because I’m a harsh critic of my own work. But I am proud of comics I made that felt like uncertain experiments in the moment of creation but now seemed to have all the pieces fall into place. RIPPER & FRIENDS and TERROR ASSAULTER: O.M.W.O.T. (One Man War On Terror) worked as comics, though there are parts of them I’m not happy about and would change if I could.

JK: How fast or slow do you typically work?  Do you have specific ways of working?  What inspires you to “create”?

Ben Marra: My process changes from project to project. But if I’m working on my own stuff, I usually develop a story idea and create an outline for it as fast as I can to preserve it. If I’m actually making it into a comic I’ll draw out some page layouts. At least that’s what I used to do until I started doing a daily strip – with that I go straight to pencils. I pencil as minimally as possible, just enough lines of information to hang the inks on. I ink as fast as possible. I like to think I ink like I’m creating a 24-hour comic. I keep trying to get faster. Speed is essential to me. For my daily comic it’s possible for me to create 14 pages in two or three days. But I don’t get to work on it for prolonged stretches due to my other commitments. I have a specific range of ways I work I would say. What inspires me to create are looking at the works of creators whose work inspires me to draw and hearing stories that cause me to think of my own stories in turn. Or it could be the feeling of art and stories I encounter that inspire me to try to replicate that same feeling in my own work. 

JK: Please tell me about TERROR ASSAULTER: O.M.W.O.T.  In what ways is the narrative thematically conversant with power?  What influenced the satirical elements, your story, and overall design of the comic?

Ben Marra: The book is a satire of American action movies and Neocon foreign policy. It’s also a satire of the way masculinity is portrayed and defined in pop culture. All of those things are based on examinations or demonstrations of power. So you could say O.M.W.O.T. is a satire of what power is, what it means. Obviously action movies were a huge influence on me when I created O.M.W.O.T. The title is obviously a nod to Jack Kirby’s OMAC comic book series. I love action movies but I love how ridiculous they can be even more, particularly those from the 80s. The overall design of the comic was influenced by classic comics and printing techniques from the 40s on through the 80s, before digital coloring became the standard. For me the goal was to tell an interesting, compelling, and entertaining story above all else.

JK: What’s on your comic bucket list, looking toward the future?

Ben Marra: I would love to complete my daily strip, WHAT WE MEAN BY YESTERDAY. But I have a feeling it will take me the rest of my life to do so. I’d love to see it printed into volumes to put on a shelf. At first it was designed to serve two purposes: 1. Allow me to experiment with a new, faster, more economical, cartoony drawing style. 2. Give me an outlet to tell my own stories while still working on other projects that actually pay the bills. Doing a daily strip is perfect because I get something done for each day, but doing four to six panels a day isn’t a huge ask either. If I didn’t do something I was never going to get a chance to tell all the stories I have in my head. The strip itself is about a high school in a suburban American town. All the characters in the strip are connected to the high school in some way. The first character we meet is a teacher, Bruce Barnes, and the first part of the story follows him during a particularly bad day he’s having. But the strip is going to branch out in ways that will be unpredictable to readers. I’m excited for them to see where it goes.  Anyone interested in checking it out can view it on my Instagram account where it’s free to read, @benjamin_marra.

I’d also like to help facilitate the adaptation of one of my comics into a film or television show.

JK: What’s the most gratifying part of being a cartoonist and doing what you do?

Ben Marra: When I’m inking and everything is clicking, the ink is flowing, the drawing is fun to make, I feel sure about what I’m working on, and I’m happy to ink the next panel. That’s the most gratifying part. It becomes addictive and you strive to recreate that experience and keep making more. 

Author Biographical Summary

Jeffery Klaehn resides in Canada and holds a PhD in Communication from the University of Amsterdam and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Strathclyde.  His interests include pop culture, music, storytelling, comics and graphic novels, digital games, game design, and interactive fiction.

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