Mainstream music…auf deutsch

An indy musician named Alex from Germany is using YouTube videos to make money and pull in fans — all just by translating and singing famous U.S. songs in the German language!

This not only speaks to the discussion we had last week on how to use a site like YouTube as an actual career, but it has a special place in my heart because it’s GERMAN! ūüôā

Here’s one of the recent songs to “F*ck You (Forget You” by Cee Lo Green! Enjoy (Geniess)!

quick post

The first part of AlJazeera’s Listening Post looks at the much-ignored, bloody and¬†devastating¬†civil war in the Ivory Coast, including a look at the role of the state-led media.

The show reveals the extent to which the role of the government controlled the narrative of state elections via media as a precursor to the deadly battle between residents that ensued.

Most interestingly, it points out the films opposing media channels used in an effort to arouse particular emotions in audiences—Downfall on anti-government media, a German film about the power-hungry Adolf Hitler and Hotel Rwanda on pro-government media, that showed the dangers of UN-involvement and drove fear of genocide into the people.

Great indy doc by heir to Johnson throne

I just saw a fantastic and disturbing documentary by the son of the Johnson fortune called The One Percent.

It documents the life of the top one percent of Americans who own around half of the wealth in the entire country. The documentary is insightful and tragic in its comprehensive portrayal of the rationality routinely by  the richest Americans who somehow convince themselves that they live and work in an economic system of fairness and equality.

Perhaps the most chilling part of the movie (besides the Hurricane Katrina footage) is a quote from a real estate agent currently facilitating the gentrification of the South Side of Chicago, which has driven out members of the Black community living there.

“We need to cleanse the earth of these people,” he said. He explained how it was easy to kick out poorer communities of color by¬†engaging¬†in cunning tricks, i.e. building a police station in the area, shutting down local schools, etc. The scene was needless to say almost unbelievable.

I definitely recommend it!!! here’s the trailer.

Interactive Learning

I mentioned in class the other day that Al Jazeera offers some interactive, multimedia news packages that combine creativity with informative content.

One of their more recent programs — Birth Rights — examines the various ways in which women’s conditions around the world influence the process of giving birth. Health disparities, economic restraints and other footprints of globalization are given in-depth coverage.

The interactive features are effective and user-friendly. They provide an outlet through which the audience can select certain kinds of mediums that they find the most intriguing — whether it’s a video, graph, or extensive article.

A system of interactive media like this one (which uses, for examples, the popular Internet tool Prezi) affords Al Jazeera the online space for comprehensive coverage, too.

The site can examine issues as big as birth rights around the world from a variety of angels and perspectives all packaged neatly onto one multimedia page. There is no need for jam-packed linking or overloading the site. Everything is available and accessible all at once, which makes it much more easy for the user to find content and explore, while simultaneously alleviating some of the organizational headaches that come with a project like this one.

Check it out!

Indy news grows in Africa

In most spheres of public discourse in the U.S., African nations are routinely grouped together as one large mass of starving people and corrupted governments.

With most news reports centered on the uprisings in Egypt and Libya, Africa isn’t grouped together as a homogenous unit. The rest of the continent isn’t even discussed.

Only the uprisings in the northern part of the world’s second-largest continent (one that could fit the U.S., China, Eastern Europe and many other countries within its parameters) have been discussed–and they have been regionally described as The Middle East and nothing more.

The denial of African voices in mainstream media has led to an increasing role in independent media all across the continent. Firoze Manji, Editor-in-Chief of Pambazuka News, a foundation-funded indy site that provides pan-African news stories and commentaries, discussed on The Real News Network this deplorable silencing of African voices, whose uprisings in Gabon, The Ivory Coast, Djibouti, South Africa and elsewhere have been largely ignored by most media outlets.

He explained how the indy media shouldn’t be the only ones covering what’s happening in the rest of the African continent, considering the nature of these demonstrations, many¬†of which are similar the the ones debated every day in the Western world–democratic uprisings, human rights abuses, etc.

Manji also noted that most of the protests in various African countries are the product of “30 years of structural adjustment programmes” — privatization policies enforced by the World Bank and IMF.

These fights are, thus, crucial to the entire world. They demonstrate  the structural inequality and corruption that continues to lead the African continent into various forms of chaos and conflict.

Other indy sites from the 50+ nations that comprise the continent have sprung up over the last decade to address this common trend of ignoring Africa: Afrol News and allAfrica.com are two other examples.

Hopefully other indy sites in the U.S. and Europe can begin to more thoroughly document the work done by these sites to make sure that Africa is not, once again, excluded from our constructed mapping of geography.

Big Brother Gets Bigger

An older editorial from CommonDreams cited some disturbing information about Verizon blocking a NARAL message service as “spam,” even though the pro-choice advocate group required individuals to sign up for their text update plan.

This piece reminded me that companies like Verizon are not only powerful enough to engage in shady actions such as web or phone censorship, but that they are only getting bigger from here on out — a trend that will not only impact options and payments, but also who gets to censor whom and what kind of legislative or judicial roadblocks and censorship such powerful companies might be able to pursue.

With the recent buy out of T-Mobile by AT&T, and debates around net neutrality, it seems as though the Big Brothers of phone, cable and internet providers are becoming one of the same person. What does this mean for censorship?

Will greater control of communication resources result in groups like NARAL being blocked from services under tactfully misinterpreted labeling? Let’s hope not.

What’s Off-Limits, Anyhow?

An interesting story from Lake Oswego, Oregon demonstrates how exclusivity might still be an issue when blending mainstream, traditional media with newstream, alternative media in the age of Internet blogging and web-casting.

What I found particularly disturbing about the the entire piece was not the fact that media was being legitmized and defined by the government (though I did find that too reminiscent of 1984 and therefore, still disturbing). However, I was even more uncomfortable with the idea that news media outlets were being expected to attend city council meetings and not directly report in the first place.

The collective meeting of public officials and journalists is itself symbolic–symbolic of the relationship between those who write for the press and those who pass off as representative public opinion. Maybe bloggers should be able to attend these meetings, because maybe the ideas shouldn’t be for an exclusive, hush-hush collaboration with journalists and government figures in the first place!

Hold public council city meetings, or don’t invite journalists at all. Keeping some in bed with those in federal power is not the most scrupulous conclusion. Let’s not only break traditions by allowing indy bloggers to qualify as news-makers via consistent creations of content, but also by ending such¬†practices¬†that contaminate the name of journalism in the first place.

The government needs to be open with its endeavors and actions, and if they can’t based on “secrecy,” they shouldn’t selectively invite journalists to make sure they have a few papers “in” on what’s going on while ignoring the entire online world of democratic commentary and analysis.

I say, like my title promptly questions, what’s off-limits, anyhow? Who gets to define journalism, and who gets to decide what kind of information is okay for what kind of journalists?