Monday, February 28, 2011

thundercats are loose!

Here's the preview trailer that aired on 25 February 2011 for the Cartoon Network remake of the beloved 80s cartoon series Thundercats. From the limited footage, it appears this version will take place on the original homeworld of Thundera. Either that or a lot more cat people managed to make it to New Thundera this time. Fans principal complaints so far have been (1) where's Panthro, (2) where's the Lair, (3) where's the Thundertank. Let's hope Lion-O has learned some respect in the last twentysomething years and quits yelling "Thundercats ho" when he wants Cheetara to show up.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

the third best thing that's happened to me this week

England seems to be the source of so much goodness in the world for me right now. Take a look at this live recreation of the globally beloved intro to The Simpsons filmed for British tv.

Come Home To The Simpsons from devilfish on Vimeo.

Friday, February 25, 2011

the second best thing that's happened this week

Do you love muppets? Sad to see LCD Soundsystem calling it quits after the 2 April show at MSG? Let Jim Henson's creations cheer you up.

P.S. Thank you James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem for taking a stand against ticket scalpers and playing a series of shows all ages at Terminal 5 before the big send off.
P.P.S. <3 Animal and Cookie Monster chilling with the beers.
P.P.S. If you haven't seen the Robot Chicken parody of Behind the Music: Electric Mayhem, you're missing out.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

the state of sin in the state of sin

The recession has hit most Americans pretty hard. Even for those households that managed to hold on to jobs, pay cuts and reduced hours have meant less discretionary income flowing in and so less dollars circulating for luxury goods and services. No place has felt the hurt in fun money evaporating more than Nevada, a state still known as the wild west, where the twin vices of prostitution and gambling can be legally indulged, just not, you know, in the same county. Today, two different strategies emerged to lure fools back to Nevada to part them with their money.

In this article from CNN, a new airline, LV Air, hopes to shuffle more people from the northeast via JFK International by offering a plane ride with a "club" atmosphere. Pulsating music, meals packed by casino chefs, intraplane texting and video chat, personal iPad movie viewers, and holographic Vegas celebrities to jazz up the stale flight safety speech will put travelers in the Vegas state of mind as soon as they step on the plane. Business class rates hopefully will be competitive with established carriers but first class accommodations, which will include 18 flat bed seats and decor from an undeclared casino partner, will run higher than other airlines because you're getting that high roller treatment. One novel service LV Air plans to offer is airport to room delivery of baggage so no more standing around at the baggage carousel waiting for the fun to start. Didn't Hooters try offering a similar "premium" air travel experience several years back? I wonder how well that's doing in these financial times...*

The other story comes to us from Slate. Looks like Harry Reid wants to stamp out the world's oldest profession in Nevada. But he's not opposed to it primarily on moral grounds. Oh no. The Senate Majority Leader wants to take the wild and wooly out of the west in order to make room for business. Vegas is a great place to visit for your company conventions but you wouldn't want to live there, at least that's the anecdote Reid told the state legislature on 22 February. What is currently happening in Vegas, it seems, literally stays in Vegas, keeping new business out and resulting in a stagnant economic climate. A certain unnamed firm wanted to open a data center in the desert but the moral litter of legal cat houses drove them away. And, according to Reid and others, this isn't the first time that sex for sale legally has prevented Nevada from attracting new jobs.

"Nevada needs to be known as the first place for innovation and investment—not as the last place where prostitution is still legal," Reid said. "When the nation thinks about Nevada, it should think about the world's newest ideas and newest careers—not about its oldest profession."

Reid is calling for Nevada to shut down legal sex work, which only employs about 1,000 people state-wide (not including the thousands of illegal sex workers operating without a license within Clark county where Las Vegas resides). He hopes that by shutting down the exchange of sex for money, more companies will show up to screw American workers in less prurient ways.

* Hooters Air went belly up April 17, 2006, a full seventeen months before the American economy started its meltdown.

EDIT 28/2/2011: The Onion weighs in on revoking legal prostitution in Nevada.

I don't get it...

Apparently there's a new meme circulating in certain corners of the internet; the geeky, video-game obsessed corners. The trailer for Dead Island has become the gold standard for "difficult to watch" clips.

This week's episode of The Escapist's webseries Extra Credits criticizes EA's recent marketing campaigns as not advancing the image of video games as more than mere "kids play" or for adult men amidst arrested development. After taking EA to task for its recent marketing flubs and not living up to its initial promises to be a company dedicated to "electronic artists" pushing the boundaries of computer interaction, the episode wraps up by saying "There. Now the Dead Island trailer isn't the most depressing thing you've seen this week."

A forum reply to the trailer for We Dare, a new Wii title collecting "adult themed" minigames (but only rated for 12 and up for "mild sexual references), described the game's ad as "almost more painful to sit through then [sic] the Dead Island trailer."

What I haven't quite ferreted out yet is whether these and similar comments are aimed at the style of the video itself, with its slow motion cuts and reverse chronological ordering all Memento style, or its substance, more or less tracing the death arc of a young girl on a tropical vacation with her parents. Are they art crit comments or  sympathetic hearts? Or both? I guess only time will tell as this meme develops. Just ask Antoine Dodson. Until next time... stay double rainbow.

Here's the official Dead Island trailer.

Here's the Backwards-Forwards trailer. It reassembles the Dead Island trailer into roughly chronological order.

Here's the so-called LITERAL* trailer. In bad taste? You make the call!

* literal is another internet meme in which people sing about quite literally what's going on onscreen. I first became aware of it in the context of the Total Eclipse of the Heart video. This may or may not have any relation to the MadTV sketch seen [HERE] and [HERE] and [HERE].

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ukraine & US agree to combat human trafficking

Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko signed a Memorandum of Agreement to combat human trafficking in Ukraine. The agreement emerged from the third of a series of so-called "strategic partnership" and dialogue initiatives between the US and Ukraine as part of the Obama administrations efforts to build "deeper consultations" and "committment[s] with selection nations." These bilateral talks seem part of a larger strategy on behalf of Obama to reconnect America diplomatically with the world after eight years of a less cooperative, more unilateral approach to international relations adopted by Bush. Other issues discussed were energy resources, strengthening democracy and rule of law in Ukraine, attracting private investment, and global issues such as food security and HIV/AIDS.

Sec. of State Clinton characterized human trafficking as a "tragic worldwide blight" when discussing the Agreement. However, I have been unable to uncover the nature of assistance pledged by the US and what, if any, additional enforcement mechanisms and investigative resources will be employed to combat human trafficking as a result of the talks. She mentioned the recent "repatriation" (other sources described it as a "transfer") of a trafficker from Ukraine to the US as an example of Ukraine-US cooperation on the issue. The trafficker is alleged to have taken $1 million US dollars in profits from the women he exploited. I assume the intent is to prosecute this alleged trafficker in American courts.

Read the press release.

I was aware that trafficking of people from the former Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe, including the Ukraine, was a major problem. Most of the articles I have found online intimate the problem addressed by the US-Ukraine Agreement is one of sex trafficking; i.e. the women victims of the crime are forcibly employed (indentured servitude, slavery) in businesses such as brothels, strip clubs, and "happy ending" massage parlors.

For those unfamiliar with the scheme, poor women are often lured from their home countries by promises of legitimate employment as waitresses, hostesses, models, etc. Sometimes they are lured by promises of marriage to a "wealthy foreigner" and citizenship in another country. The least often used method, as far as I know, of obtaining the women is the blockbuster "Taken" scenario in which women are initially kidnapped or taken by force. (This scenario also underlies the speculation of a "white slavery ring" spiriting Natalee Holloway away to Amsterdam from Aruba). Once away from home, seizure of passports and other identifying documents, isolation / imprisonment, huge debts attributed to unexpected "transaction costs"for transportation, or threats to family members often keep the women at the mercy of those involved with trafficking in persons.

The brothels in Amsterdam and other Western European countries are filled with women and girls trafficked from Eastern Europe, Russia, and even parts of Asia. Trafficked persons was one of the concerns behind the decision to close down and restrict a substantial segment of the sex work industry in Amsterdam's "redlight district" in 2006.

What doesn't get as much notice is the trafficking in persons for labor. Maybe it isn't as sensationalistic as naive girls being taken advantage of sexually but it's a major problem nonetheless. A few video and radio reports did mention the Ukraine-US Agreement would also combat this form of trafficking.

After poking around the interwebs for a little while, I managed to turn up some figures. The number of men, women, and children from the Ukraine suspected of being the victims of human trafficking is more than 100,000.[1] A 2007 study determined that more Ukrainians had been the victims of human trafficking than any other Eastern European country since the dissolution of the USSR.[2] I wasn't able to readily find an estimate of the number of Ukrainian women in Amsterdam, German, or American brothels.

There has been much recent literature about the importance of storytelling, the opportunity to tell one's personal narrative and to be heard and acknowledged, in the healing process and transforming the discourse from "being a victim" to being a subject, an agent, who experienced a crime happen to them. In focusing so much on capturing and punishing the traffickers, I fear we overlook the people who were trafficked, failing to acknowledge them and hear them as subjects in the world.

Let's hope this Memorandum of Agreement between the Ukraine and US signals renewed efforts to prevent human trafficking in the first instance and more vigorous efforts to intercept, arrest, and punish those individuals involved. The problem seems easy to manage when you focus on capturing the bad guys. The narrative ends (seemingly happy) when s/he gets their just deserts at the hands of the criminal justice system. There is closure. The curtain falls. Balance has been restored.

But I also wonder about the resources being invested in helping the victims of trafficking as part of this Agreement. What efforts are being made to make them whole again? To return them home or help them obtain visas in their new country? What economic, emotional, and psychological support do we rally to help them cope with the inhumane treatment they've been forced to endure? This narrative, unfortunately, doesn't wrap-up so nice and neatly.

That's the story that needs telling.