Archive for February, 2008

Our Brand is Change

A few days ago, I posted a quick pointer to an article on Barack Obama’s use of the Gotham typeface in virtually all of his campaign materials. Here is an interview from Newsweek with expert graphic designer Michael Bieruit on a similar topic.

Some interesting tidbits: Beiruit compares Obama’s brand to the brands of Target, Volkswagen, and Apple. The Apple comparison makes a lot of sense to me, especially given the deliberate connection that Phil deVellis and others have made between Obama and Apple. He also argues that Gotham appears to be a more “American” font than something like Helvetica while acknowledging that “in our imaginations to a certain degree.”

Link via Oliver Willis.

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Telecom Terror TV

In a rush this morning, but I just wanted to provide a quick pointer to Stranahan’s “Telecom Terror TV,” a sharp parody of that semi-hysterical House GOP video attacking House Democrats on their FISA vote.

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“Never Interrupt ObamaGirl”

Via the Barely Political website, ObamaGirl’s Saturday Night Live cameo from the other night. I almost never watch SNL anymore, but this is pretty funny stuff, and certainly appropriate given that the show is a pretty clear influence on the Barely Political team.

In other news, I’m probably not going to liveblog the Oscars this year, given that Green Cine already has a big liveblogging shindig planned. Plus, I’m making lots of progress on an article I’m writing, so I’ll probably work on that while watching the ceremony.

Update: NBC pulled the ObamaGirl sketch from YouTube, which is no big shock, but annoying given that the only time I find myself interested enough to even think about watching SNL again is when I see a clip on YouTube.  The arguments about YouTube clips actually bringing value back to the shows they cite or anthologize have been well-rehearsed, but I continue to find it frustrating that networks insist on pulling short segments of content from the web.

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Sunday Links

A whole collection of links, many of which are related to some of my ongoing research projects:

  • A.J. reports from the International Documentary Association reception for this year’s Oscar nominees, where Michael Moore called for multiplexes to dedicate one screen per theater to documentaries or to devote one night per week to documentary screenings, creating what might be called a “documentary night in America.” Regular readers might guess that I really like this idea quite a bit.
  • Via Sujewa a pointer to the From Here to Awesome promo video. My talk at SCMS is on new internet-based distribution methods, so I’ll be interested in learning more about this model. There’s also a New Tee Vee interview with Four Eyed Monsters co-director Arin Crumley that’s worth checking out.
  • Jennifer Holt reports from the National Association of Television Program Executives conference, where she encountered quite a bit of anxiety about television’s digital future, with panels titled “Taming the Online Video Beast” among others.
  • A typeface we can believe in: Gary Hustwit, the director of Helvetica, has an interesting post on the Obama campaign’s use of the Gotham typeface to promote his message of change.
  • Speaking of Obama, Gene at techPresident have highlighted yet another user-generated remix of that video, “Hope.Act.Change.” I think Gene is probably right to argue that “there won’t be a singular moment that captures the ascendancy of the Internet in the way that the Kennedy-Nixon debates marked the arrival of television.” But I wonder how much that debate has been retroactively mythologized to suit a certain narrative about the 1960 election. Attempts to trace out this media shift will likely point to George Allen’s “macaca moment,” Phil De Vellis’s “Vote Different,” the first YouTube debate, and ObamaGirl, among other internet phenomena, but I think it’s still worth emphasizing how all of these moments were ultimately mediated by television and other older media.
  • Finally, a quick note that the dates for the 2008 Flow Conference have been announced. I really enjoyed the 2006 conference, so I’m hoping to attend this one as well.

While I’m thinking about it, I had a chance to watch Crazy Love last night, Dan Klores’s compelling documentary about the bizarre love story between Burt and Linda Pugach. I knew very little about the obsessive romance between Burt and Linda, so I won’t reveal any of the roller-coaster details, but suffice it to say that they are two of the most fascinating characters I’ve seen on-screen in a long time, and Klores does an excellent job of withholding certain details from viewers who are unfamiliar with the story.

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Not sure I have too much to say about Persepolis (IMDB), the movie adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s coming-of-age graphic novel.  The adaptation was relatively faithful to the comic book series, even preserving–to a great extent–the episodic structure of the collected comic books.  Like the graphic novel, the film uses what might appear to be a relatively crude black-and-white animation style that works well for the material, paradoxically giving the material an additional life that current animation often lacks with its emphasis on offering an illusion of depth (a point that Ebert raises in his review).

The film–like the comic books–also fulfills the important service of providing some historical background regarding the toppling of the Shah and the revolutions of the 1970s and how they might have affected an independent-minded, rebellious young person such as the young Marjane, who listens to Iron Maiden and wears a jacket with “Punk is not Dead” scrawled on the back.  I have some other writing projects I need to be working on, so I can’t write a longer entry, but I liked the film quite a bit and found it to be a nice companion to the graphic novels.

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Friday Procrastination Links

Recovering from a long day of teaching yesterday, so I’m getting a very slow start on some writing I need to be doing. But I just wanted to mention some links that regular readers of the blog might be interested in checking out:

  • First, the P.O.V. Blog mentions a student filmmaking contest called Film Your Issue that invites students to make a short film about a political issue that is pertinent to them. There are a number of cool prizes, including internships at USA Today and P.O.V., as well as the opportunity to have your film screened at the Democratic, Republican , and NAACP conventions.
  • Second, Green Cine is hosting a liveblogging event for the 2008 Oscars. In the past few years, I’ve liveblogged the Oscars from here, but watching the Oscars with some of the coolest film bloggers out there sounds like it’ll be a lot more fun (thanks to Agnes, one of the participating bloggers, for the reminder).
  • I’m probably a bit late to the party on this one, but Molly Ringwald turned 40 (!?!) this week. Elana has a nice reflection on Ringwald’s place in the Generation X pantheon and a link to Defamer Australia’s video tribute.
  • Finally, HenryJenkins has an interesting interview with Alex Juhasz that focuses, to some extent, on her “Learning from YouTube” course last fall. I’ll be on a panel with Alex at the Consoling Passions in a few weeks, so it’s nice to read more about her experiences with teaching YouTube. Here’s her blog, as well. Update: Here’s Part 2 of the interview and a far more attentive reading from Chris at Category D.  Alex’s point about YouTube’s popularity rankings privileging “normal or hegemonic” ideas actually reinforces an idea I’ve been entertaining about viral “political” videos on YouTube.  The ones that are most widely blogged and spiral out into other media (cable TV, etc) are the ones that seem to conform most readily to already existing images of the candidates.

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“Lynching Party”

If MSNBC was willing to fire Don Imus for referring to Rutgers women’s basketball players as “nappy headed hos” and to suspend David Schuster for suggesting that the Clinton campaign was “pimping out” Chelsea Clinton, shouldn’t Fox News hold Bill O’Reilly to similar standards for threatening a “lynching party” over Michelle Obama’s comments about her husband’s campaign?

Not sure I have much to add here, but throwing around phrases like “lynching party” is not something that should be taken lightly. Media Matters has more information about O’Reilly’s incredibly offensive and thoughtless comments, including contact information for Fox News and the producers for O’Reilly’s radio show if you feel inclined to complain.

Update: Obviously there’s a larger point here about the historical role of lynching, not just terms of physical violence but also in terms of the psychological threat it represented.  And this story only reminds us of the need to be attentive to this history and to the connotations that such words carry.

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Update on Orphan Works Legislation

I’m currently swamped with work, including the aforementioned talk I’ll be giving tomorrow, but just wanted to offer a quick pointer to the important issue of “orphan works” under discussion at the Resources blog.  Essentially, “orphan works” are those texts whose copyright holders are ambiguous, lost, or otherwise unavailable for a variety of reasons (a song’s composer died without a will; a creator of film footage isn’t identified; an advertised corporation is now defunct), making it unreasonable for an artist to use that work in future productions out of fear of copyright infringement.  The orphan works legislation being proposed here would essentially close a loophole in the 1976 Copyright Act to create a process allowing artists to use these texts.  For the full story, do check out the Resources bog entry on the topic.

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Hillary Soprano Talk

Just a quick note to my Fayetteville State readers that I’ll be giving a talk tomorrow afternoon at 4 PM on online election parody videos in the Continuing Ed building.  The talk is entitled, “Hillary Clinton Meets Johnny Sack: Presidential Parody Videos and the 2008 Election,” but I’m planning to focus more on ObamaGirl, the YouTube debate, and some other more recent videos.  I’ve already co-written a (currently unpublished) article on presidential mashups, such as “Vote Different” and “George Bush’s Imagine,” with another author, so this time around, I’m more interested in looking at videos with more “original” material.

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Saturday Six

Finally got a chance to do a quick blog tour this morning and, as always, found a bunch of pertinent and interesting stuff that I wish I had more time to blog:

  • The folks at TechPresident are asking a question that I’ve been thinking about as well. In working on my article on online political mashups and remixes, I’ve come across a number of videos supporting Obama, Clinton, Paul, and Huckabee, but few, if any, supporting McCain, so this begs two are questions: are there any pro-McCain mashup artists out there that I’m simply missing? If there aren’t any McCain mashups, why not?
  • John Heilemann’s “The Meme Prisoner:” A lot of people have been blogging this article about the “unfair” press coverage that Clinton has received as compared to Clinton. For the most part, I think the article gets things right, especially the ridiculous “boys club” coverage on MSNBC, with the exception of Olbermann. But while Obama may be benefiting from the “rock star” meme that has become attached to his campaign, even that meme may harm Obama in the long run by suggesting that his candidacy entails the privileging of style over substance, as Barbara Eherenreich points out.
  • No time to blog about it further, but because I address these issues in the book I’m writing, I just wanted to mark the moment that Blu-Ray triumphed over HD DVD. Unlike the somewhat more protracted battle between VHS and Beta, the industry seems to have consolidated behind Blu-Ray.
  • On a related note, Scott Kirsner has a link to a WSJ article on the two 3D concert films featuring Hannah Montana and U2, both of which are currently in theaters.
  • I wrote about this issue a few months ago, but Jeff has an insightful blog post on the quirks of the Netflix community recommendation tools.
  • Girish has a great question for cinephiles about uncanny overlaps between two seemingly disconnected films. I didn’t quite answer his question straight, but instead mentioned my uncanny overlap between watching Wayne Wang’s Smoke for the first time and what happened in a Dupont Circle bookstore immediately afterwards.

Update: One more via a Twitter tip: Yes We Can Has, which combines two great internet phenomena, LOL Cats and Obamania.

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Banished Reminder

It appears that it won’t be broadcast here in Fayetteville until February 29, but starting on February 19 in other locations, PBS’s documentary series, Independent Lens, is planning to feature Banished: American Ethnic Cleansings, which recounts the history of communities across the United States that forced black families to leave their homes.

Coincidentally, one of those counties, Forsyth County, Georgia, is just a few miles from my parents’ home near Atlanta, and even in the late 1980s, the county had no black residents (Oprah Winfrey taped an episode of her show there back in 1987), so the issues covered in the film are certainly still timely.

But one of the reasons, I wanted to mention Banished is its innovative use of web tools, including an interactive map that provides further information about the counties where some of the worst incidents of racial cleansing took place and a number of resources allowing people to get involved in their local communities. Hoping to have more to say about Banished after I get a chance to see it in a few weeks.

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Mutual Appreciation Blogging

This is totally cool: the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, one of the best sources for film criticism on the web, has named me one of their “Men We Love” of 2008. As you’ll see, I’m in great company here, so this is very exciting news.  The AWFJ continues to do outstanding work, so if you haven’t yet bookmarked their site (or added it to your blogroll), you really should.

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Three Simple Words: Gonna Be Wars

Saw it first at TPM, which means it’s pretty much everywhere at this point (or will be), but couldn’t resist mentioning “,” a sharp parody of the “Yes I Can” remix and an entertaining critique of the McCain campaign to boot (just noticed that this video was done by Andy Cobb, who made the “Godfather IV” trailer I liked so much).

More later, maybe, but my life suddenly just took a turn for the incredibly busy.

Update: I’m obviously not too busy. This parody, made for Barely Political by Lee Stranahan, “No You Can’t,” may be even funnier (via Atrios and litbrit).

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Donations Needed

I’ve just learned from Jason that a regular contributor to Dr. Mabuse’s Kaleidoscope, Selmin lost virtually everything she owns in a fire that consumed her Detroit apartment. This includes many of the books and DVDs she needed for her dissertation.

To help out, you can go to Selmin’s Amazon Wish List to help replace these lost books and DVDs that are so crucial to her research.

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Twilight of Academic Freedom

While skimming through my blog archives this morning, I happened to notice that Marc Bousquet, author of How the University Works (my review), has posted another video interview, this time with Cary Nelson, the president of the American Association of University Professors.  Nelson talks at length about the threat to academic freedom represented by an increased reliance on contingent faculty (adjunct, part-time, and other non-tenure stream faculty).

It’s a good, quick overview of these issues in that it highlights the special vulnerability that many contingent faculty members face when presenting controversial views in the classroom.  Nelson also points out the degree to which contingent employment works against the ability of faculty to cultivate long-term mentoring relationships with their students.

Other recent and worthwhile interviews include this one with Michelle Masse on the continued gender inequality in the academic workplace and the “feminization” of certain fields and courses.

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