Category Archives: Entertainment

Racists go bonkers after Beyoncé surprises Kaepernick with Ali Legacy Award

Beyoncé and Colin Kaepernick (Twitter)

Beyoncé surprised free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick with Sports Illustrated‘s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award — and online racists lost their minds.

The magazine recognized Kaepernick for his personal sacrifice after taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and systemic racism, which has seemingly cost him a job in the NFL.

“Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hope to change the world for the better,” the singer said while presenting the award. “To change the way we treat each other — especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up. It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America.”

Kaepernick’s on-field protest has been taken up by other NFL players, which has drawn the ire or President Donald Trump and his supporters.

More from Travis Gettys/RawStory

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Conservatives Swiftly Latch Onto Denzel Washington’s Comments About Prison System

Denzel Washington’s comments about how fatherless boys can get pushed into the prison system gave conservatives plenty of content to fawn over. While discussing his new film, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” the actor was pointedly asked for his thoughts on the prison industrial complex.

“It starts at the home,” he told reporters at the movie’s New York premiere Monday, Nov. 20 according to the New York Daily News. “It starts at home. It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure. So you know, I can’t blame the system. It’s unfortunate that we make such easy work for them.”

In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, Washington gave an example of how not having a father in the home affects a young man’s outlook.

“I grew up with guys who did decades [in prison] and it had as much to do with their fathers not being in their lives as it did to do with any system,” he said in a Tuesday, Nov. 14 article.

In fact, Brooklyn, NY-based criminal defense attorney Kenneth J. Montgomery says Washington is partly right.

“I think a father in the home — as in any home — facilitates stability,” Montgomery told Atlanta Black Star Monday, Nov. 27. “Stability sometimes breeds better decision making. It provides a sense of belonging and comfort.

“There is a strong correlation,” he added of the impact of fathers being present in a Black household. “If you study a majority of criminal cases across the board, the lack of a father in the home is a common denominator, among poverty and other issues.”

By Kiersten Willis/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

CULTURE How Fake News Works: Tens of Millions of Americans Would Flunk Any Basic Civics Class Russian fake news infiltrated our social media feeds, and our own willful ignorance is to blame.

It happens every semester. I’m sitting at home, tempted to jump head first out the window as I grade papers from my college freshmen writing course. One student has cited a Facebook meme as evidence to present the case for the criminalization of abortion. Another has referred to the expertise of an unidentified Reddit user as the conversation closer on issues of war and peace.

The next morning I will give a repeat performance, apparently due to popular demand, of my lecture on legitimate sources. I’ll execute a dramatic and exciting crescendo — comparable to the guitar solo at the end of Lynyrd Skynryd’s “Free Bird” — when I emphasize that social media feeds, message boards and various other forms of internet chatter do not make for credible research outlets. My soft landing occurs with the display of academic journals and journalistic publications with solid reputations as reliable disseminators of information.

Little did I know, as I passed every few months through each stage of this predictable pedagogical routine, that the health of American democracy is at stake. It turns out that tens of millions of Americans belong in my freshmen writing course, and, if their failures of citizenship are any indication, would struggle to pass if enrolled.

As everyone scrambles to correctly assign blame for the degradation of American democracy in 2016 through fake news Russian disinformation campaigns, commentators act as if they are attempting to determine who is responsible for letting a toddler jump into the pool. Was it the social media CEOs for having no standards regulating content? Was it Vladimir Putin, whose interference some have called an “act of war?” Or was it the DNC for their failure to adequately guard against hacking?

The conversation would remain important, but it would not rise to the level of urgency if the American people were not susceptible to the spread of information transparently false to anyone who has read a substantive book, or even a newspaper, in the past year.

Gore Vidal once remarked, “Half of the U.S. population reads a newspaper. Half of the U.S. population votes. Let’s hope it is the same half.”

Now, fewer than half of Americans read the newspaper, and an increasingly alarming amount report that they rely on social media for news, but many of them are still participating in the Democratic process. I often see bumper stickers that announce, “I’m Catholic and I vote” or “I’m NRA and I vote.” It seems that a lucrative merchandising opportunity exists for someone who invents the sticker, “I don’t read and I vote.”

The documentation of Americans’ ignorance on fundamental issues of history and governance is by now so thorough that it hardly bears repeating. For example, only 26 percent of Americans can name all three branches of government. These are people commonly referred to as “elitists.”

The problem is not just that Americans don’t know. It is that they don’t know what they don’t know, and they don’t know how to figure it out. Like my students who attempt to meet their research requirement on Twitter, American voters are misinforming themselves with lies and inaccuracies from unreliable sources.

If the overwhelming majority of Americans cannot even identify the three branches of their own government, it should strike no one as a surprise that they are unaware of refugee policies in Europe. One of the fake news stories I saw circulate on Facebook in the months leading up to the presidential election described “millions” of refugees arriving in Germany, or sometimes Italy, and essentially “taking over” the country. The post often produced as photographic evidence, doctored images from the early 20th century. Apocalyptic updates on the refugee invasion of European nations served as warning against what would happen in America if Hillary Clinton became president.

The most consequential offenders in the dissemination, and success, of fake news are not the Russians or social media company executives, but the American education system, and the parents who are content with raising children who know little about their country, much less about the rest of the world.

Only nine states require civics as part of the high school curriculum, and many colleges have reduced or eliminated requirements in history and political science. As unimaginable as it seems, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni published a report last year that only seven of the nation’s top 25 liberal arts colleges require their history majors — this is not a joke — to take a course in U.S. history.

The notion that the only knowledge that matters is that which can enable students to acquire high-paying employment has also contributed to the intellectual failures of Americans.

What the scandal of 2016’s hacks, Russian meddling and disinformation proves, is that a significant portion of Americans are ungovernable and unfit for the task of citizenship in a free country. It certainly does not have to stay that way, but reversal would demand an entirely new approach to education, popular political discussion and the preparation of children for the adult world.

As long as the focus remains solely on easily identifiable villains — foreign dictators, greedy tech magnates — American democracy will remain an easy target for illusionists and conmen.

By David Masciotra/Salon

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Colin Kaepernick files grievance accusing NFL teams of colluding against him

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who remains unemployed after a 2016 season in which he began the movement of players protesting during the national anthem, has filed a grievance accusing NFL teams of colluding to keep him out of the league, his legal representatives said.

Kaepernick retained Los Angeles-based attorney Mark J. Geragos to pursue the collusion claim and, according to a person with knowledge of the filing, it will be Kaepernick’s outside legal representation and not the NFL Players Association primarily in charge of preparing and presenting his case.

Geragos’s firm confirmed the grievance, saying it filed “only after pursuing every possible avenue with all NFL teams and their executives.”

In a statement, the law firm’ also said: “If the NFL . . . is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful political protest — which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago — should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government. . . . Protecting all athletes from such collusive conduct is what compelled Mr. Kaepernick to file his grievance.”

 

The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ union prohibits teams from conspiring to make decisions about signing a player. But the CBA also says the mere fact that a player is unsigned and evidence about the player’s qualifications to be on an NFL roster do not constitute proof of collusion.

For that reason, such cases are difficult to prove, according to legal experts.

“There has to be some evidence of an agreement between multiple teams not to sign a player,” said Gabriel Feldman, the director of the sports law program at Tulane University. “Disagreement over personnel decisions, as obvious as it may seem to someone looking at this, does not provide evidence of collusion. There has to be some evidence of an explicit or implied agreement. There has to be proof of a conspiracy.”

Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers following last season, making him a free agent eligible to sign with any team. The 49ers have said they would have released Kaepernick rather than retaining him under the terms of that deal. He has remained out of work, being passed over by other teams in favor of other quarterbacks. The Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens considered signing Kaepernick but decided against doing so.

More recently, the Tennessee Titans signed Brandon Weeden to provide depth behind backup Matt Cassel when their starting quarterback, Marcus Mariota, was hurt. That signing seemed particularly inflammatory to Kaepernick supporters who cited Kaepernick’s superior career accomplishments. Kaepernick has led the 49ers to a Super Bowl and two NFC championship games and he threw 16 touchdown passes with four interceptions for them last season.

The NFLPA issued a written statement late Sunday saying it learned of Kaepernick’s grievance through media reports and that it had learned the league previously was informed of Kaepernick’s intention to file the grievance.

“Our union has a duty to assist Mr. Kaepernick as we do all players and we will support him,” the NFLPA’s written statement said, adding that it had been in regular contact with Kaepernick’s representatives over the past year about his options and planned to schedule a call for this week with his advisers.

Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before games last season to protest, he said, racial inequality and police mistreatment of African Americans in the United States. Those protests were taken up by other players and the controversy over them has been amplified this season even with Kaepernick out of the league.

President Trump called on NFL owners to “fire” players who protested during the anthem, referring to such a player as a “son of a bitch.” Vice President Pence walked out of a game last week between the 49ers and Colts in Indianapolis, citing players’ protests. Trump indicated that he had orchestrated that plan.

Under pressure from the White House, NFL owners are scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday in New York and might seek the NFLPA’s support of a measure for players to stand for the anthem, according to multiple people familiar with the sport’s inner workings, while also pledging league support for players’ community activism efforts.

Some media members have contended since the offseason that Kaepernick was being blackballed by NFL teams based on his political stance. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and owners were asked about that contention on a number of occasions and denied that teams were acting in concert on Kaepernick because of his protests.

“Each team makes individual decisions on how they can improve their team,” Goodell at conclusion of NFL owners’ meeting in May in Chicago. “If they see an opportunity to improve their team, they do it. They evaluate players. They evaluate systems and coaches. They all make those individual decisions to try and improve their team.”

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told reporters in July, according to the Palm Beach Post: “I would sure hope not. I know a lot’s been written about it, but you know owners and coaches — they’ll do anything it takes to win. If they think he can help them win, I’m sure — I would hope they would sign him.”

The plan for Kaepernick to pursue a grievance under the CBA was first reported by Bleacher Report.

“It may seem obvious to Colin Kaepernick,” Feldman said in a phone interview Sunday. “It may seem obvious to someone on the outside looking at this. But collusion requires an agreement [between teams]. Individual team decisions are not challengeable under the anti-collusion provision. An arbitrator is not going to second-guess an individual team’s personnel decision.”

If such evidence of collusion by NFL teams against Kaepernick exists, it has yet to revealed.

“We don’t know,” Feldman said. “Obviously everybody is talking about the baseball collusion cases from the 1980s, where there was a smoking gun. There were notes. There was strong evidence. There may be evidence here of collusion. We just don’t know.”

The NFL declined to comment Sunday through a spokesman.

“No Club, its employees or agents shall enter into any agreement, express or implied, with the NFL or any other Club, its employees or agents to restrict or limit individual Club decision-making,” the CBA says, adding that applies to “whether to negotiate or not to negotiate with any player” and “whether to offer or not to offer a Player Contract to any player,” among other things.

The CBA also says: “The failure by a Club or Clubs to negotiate, to submit Offer Sheets, or to sign contracts with Restricted Free Agents or Transition Players, or to negotiate, make offers, or sign contracts for the playing services of such players or Unrestricted Free Agents, shall not, by itself or in combination only with evidence about the playing skills of the player(s) not receiving any such offer or contract, satisfy the burden of proof set forth … above.”

By Mark Maske/WashingtonPost

Posted by The NON-Conformist

MoviePass Drops Its Price, Pleasing Customers but Angering AMC

AMC Theaters, the country’s largest cinema chain, is looking for ways to stop moviegoers from using MoviePass in its theaters. Credit Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Membership to the theater going subscription service MoviePass surged after it dropped its prices this month, with more than 150,000 new users signing up in just two days. Its members can now go to the movies 365 times a year for $9.95 a month, and so far they have been going in droves, according to data released by one of the company’s investors.

But not everyone is happy: AMC Theaters, the country’s largest cinema chain, has said that it is looking for ways to block subscribers from using the MoviePass app to buy tickets to its theaters.

In a statement this month, the theater chain derided MoviePass as “a small fringe player” and said the service was “not welcome here.” AMC said lawyers were reviewing its options for barring subscribers from using MoviePass at its facilities

MoviePass, which began in 2011, announced on Aug. 15 that it would lower the cost of its unlimited monthly subscription from as much as $50 in the most expensive cities to a flat nationwide rate of $9.95. The deal works at 91 percent of movie theaters in the United States, the company said in a statement, but it does not apply to 3D or IMAX movies. Members can see one movie a day.

“We believe that you want to see more movies in theaters,” the company told subscribers in a blog post.

But that, according to AMC, is exactly the problem. MoviePass is essentially a company that resells movie access: It pays the full ticket price for a film and then makes those tickets available to subscribers, who pay a lot less than they would otherwise.

AMC said the average nationwide price for a ticket at one of its theaters was $9.33 in the most recent fiscal quarter. A MoviePass customer who saw 31 movies in a month would be paying 32 cents for each film.

Ticket-by-ticket, it works out to be a good deal for consumers. But AMC said a nationwide $9.95 price point was “not in the best interest of moviegoers, movie theaters and movie studios.” It may not even be in the best interest of MoviePass itself, AMC said.

“From what we can tell, by definition and absent some other form of other compensation, MoviePass will be losing money on every subscriber seeing two movies or more in a month,” the theater chain said in a statement. “In AMC’s view, that price level is unsustainable and only sets up consumers for ultimate disappointment down the road if or when the product can no longer be fulfilled.”

The chain also said MoviePass’s approach to pricing could damage the movie industry long-term because it “will not provide sufficient revenue to operate quality theaters nor will it produce enough income to provide film makers with sufficient incentive to make great new movies.”

The average price of a movie ticket in the United States was $8.65 in 2016, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. But prices vary widely from place to place. A single, non-discount ticket to an evening show can cost $23.29 at a theater in Times Square in Manhattan but only $9 in El Dorado, Ark.

Helios and Matheson, an analytics firm that bought a majority stake in MoviePass this month, said the surge in new subscribers had surpassed the company’s membership projections through late 2018. But a spokesman for MoviePass said it would not release the overall number of its subscribers.

“We did not foresee a phenomenon of this magnitude coming,” Ted Farnsworth, the chief executive of Helios and Matheson, said in a statement. “We set the expectation for MoviePass to achieve at least 150,000 subscribers 15 months down the road.”

Data released by the firm indicated that two theater chains, which the firm declined to name, had seen significant increase in attendance since the new price plan came into effect.

Comparing data from the week before the plan was announced and the six-day period afterward, the firm said the number of seats filled by MoviePass subscribers had jumped from 206 to approximately 4,137 in one of the chains. In the second chain, that figure rose from 203 to approximately 1,795.

A spokesman for MoviePass said he did not know whether either of those chains was AMC, which operates more than more than 600 theaters in the United States, according to Ryan Noonan, a spokesman for the chain. He declined to elaborate on the statement it released on Aug. 15.

AMC and MoviePass did not always have such a tense relationship. The two began a partnership in 2014 that let subscribers watch movies in AMC theaters in Boston and Denver for between $35 and $45 a month, a far higher rate than it offers now.

MoviePass said the recent price drop brought “a massive amount” of visitors to its website and app, crashing both. That made it difficult for new subscribers to sign up and “significantly increased our incoming correspondence,” the company said on Tuesday.

MoviePass worked to repair both (and to respond to angry customers on social media who were unable to sign up for the new deal) throughout the week, and on Wednesday said they were up and running again.

Mitch Lowe, the chief executive of MoviePass and a co-founder of Netflix, told The Denver Post that he thought the statement from AMC was “bluster.”

“I’m worried about it, but I wish they would just sit down and talk to us,” Mr. Lowe told the paper. “I’m sure at some point or another we’ll be best friends.”

By LIAM STACK/NYTimes

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Paints It Black At The New Museum

"Vigil For A Horseman" (2017) by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

“Vigil For A Horseman” (2017) by Lynette Yiadom-BoakyeIMAGES COURTESY THE ARTIST/CORVI-MORA, LONDON/JACK SHAINMAN GALLERY, NEW YORK

To walk in to British artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s current exhibition at the New Museum is to leave the downtown institution and enter an impressively elegant party. The reveal happens as soon as you exit the museum’s twin elevators: The loft-like gallery is painted burgundy; the lighting inside the space is nightclub-moody; beyond the visitors’ heads more than a dozen painted figures are visible — hung so low that they directly meet the viewer’s gaze. Though these are portraits of entirely fictional people, they remain the folks in the room you most want to meet.

Standing, sitting, or lying down, Yiadom-Boakye’s figures look back at the viewer with uncommon self-assurance. They are the contemporary kin of the popes, kings, and queens painted by Old Masters and proto-Modernists from Velázquez to Joshua Reynolds to Édouard Manet. Up-to-date portraits that recall the stoicism of Renaissance martyrs, they also channel the secular saints of the African diaspora. There’s the self-possession of a James Baldwin–like figure seated at a café table, the steely mettle of Shirley Chisholm in an unidentified woman’s set jaw, the youthful worldliness of Lorraine Hansberry in a strapping ballerina’s arabesque.

Not so much looking back in anger as encountering the world confidently, Yiadom-Boakye’s mysterious yet familiar figures exude that one thing all convincing human representations throughout history possess — formal presence. Their elegant bearing grows significantly in stature when contrasted starkly with the historical absence of black faces and bodies during some five centuries of European painting.

The first solo U.S. museum show for Britain’s 2013 Turner Prize contender in seven years (the last was at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2010), Yiadom-Boakye’s current outing is a mini-blockbuster that is major in every way except for the number of works on view. Made especially for the New Museum, the seventeen paintings included in the exhibition (one is a triptych) come together like a plotless yarn, or what the French call nouveau roman (think Alain Robbe-Grillet’s novel La Jalousie). Pictures of imaginary people the artist composites from drawings, magazine clippings, and her own memories, her likenesses rely on the viewer to complete their storylines. The exhibition’s title, “Under-Song for a Cipher,” underscores Yiadom-Boakye’s oblique vision: Like all portraits, hers are grounded in history, yet they ultimately function as a magnet for the viewer’s associative filings.

The daughter of Ghanaian parents who moved to London in the Sixties to work as nurses for the National Health Service, the now 39-year-old Yiadom-Boakye underwent the routinely alienating experience of being both black and a child of immigrants in the U.K. After discarding a childhood interest in optometry — “the science got in the way,” she told one interviewer — she took up art, eventually finding her way to painting: a different but related study of visual phenomena. On receiving a graduate degree from London’s Royal Academy, the artist was tapped for her career-firing debut at the Studio Museum. Numerous presentations in biennials, institutions, and galleries (as well as prizes) followed. On the evidence, few match the concision and coherence of the artist’s current display at the New Museum.

Arranged around the wine-colored walls of the museum’s large fourth-floor gallery, Yiadom-Boakye’s work offers an encyclopedic sweep of historical portraiture, but with a pantheon of sensuous black figures depicted against neutral backdrops instead of the usual Caucasian suspects. Her habit of posing her imaginary subjects in isolation against monochrome grounds summons the standing portraits of James McNeill Whistler; the half-dozen pictures of dancers in leotards, though mostly male, strongly evoke the ballerinas of Edgar Degas; and the Brit artist’s loose brushwork, simplification of details, and penchant for leaving key parts of her paintings unresolved recall the no-frills canvases of Manet — the nineteenth century’s “painter of modern life.” Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings are so pared-down, in fact, they resemble a remark ascribed to Manet: “There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against the other.”

Completed mostly in a day and without the benefit (or hindrance) of disegno — the substrate of drawing that undergirds traditional portrait paintings — Yiadom-Boakye’s pictures combine spare but bravura brushwork and a restrained palette full of various shades of brown into a style that has been described by supporters as “improvised and effortless, even virtuoso.” Additionally, the artist actively uses her Old Master–ish manner, which critic Robert Storr refers to in the exhibition catalog as “the warm amber-to-sepia glow of aged pictures about which many commentators wax poetic,” as cover for further racial ghostbusting. The representation of skin in Yiadom-Boakye’s portraits notably runs from light to dark brown. This “mixed race” palette encourages viewers of all hues to see not just the oppositions associated with Otherness, but difference within difference.

Yet it’s certain first-rate painterly passages in Yiadom-Boakye’s simple-seeming, unfinished-looking canvases that best materialize her work’s powerful ambiguity. If, in the artist’s own words, her titles function less as an explanation than “an extra mark in the paintings,” then key portions of thinly painted canvases like An Amber Cluster and 8am Cadiz court enigma, shadowed by the history of representation, with an expert hand. The first painting, for instance, features a black dancer whose wide-collared orange shirt incorporates the chevrons of the canvas’s weave, while the second reprises a barefoot, forward-facing, brotherman take on Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 painting Christina’s World. In Yiadom-Boakye’s coolly ironic version, the eyes, nose, and mouth of the picture’s male subject are strangely illuminated by white flashes of exposed canvas.

A third work, Vigil for a Horseman, consists of three paintings that feature two black males attired in black tops and red tights lounging atop a red-and-white-striped bed and a black-and-blue diamond-patterned cushion. A tour de force of patterned color and painterly restraint, the triptych and its absurd title propose a uniquely timely rationale for making finely calibrated pictures of black figures. Painted without the usual visual markers that might indicate a historical signature or social and cultural origins (which we know to be fictional), the figures exist in an allegorically retroactive space — a present where work like this, and that of other leading black artists, can aspire to self-invent a visual canon.

To paraphrase Baldwin, the story of the black figure in art is the story of what’s missing in art — it is not a pretty story. In this lushly vibrant exhibition, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye updates art’s oldest medium with an expert hand and a bracingly new message.

by CHRISTIAN VIVEROS-FAUNE/TheVilliageVoice

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Germany approves bill to fine social media up to €50mn over online hate speech, fake news

The German parliament has voted to fine social media networks up to €50 million ($56 million) if they fail to remove hateful content or fake news. The networks will be given 24 hours to block or delete any inappropriate content.

“Freedom of speech ends where criminal law begins,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas said, adding that the measure “end[s] the internet law of the jungle.”

The law gives social media 24 hours to remove or block the illegal content. If a case is more complicated, the platform will be given a week to deal with it. The networks also obliged to report back to those who filed the complaint about the case details and how they dealt with it.

The measure won’t be imposed after only one violation, but only after a company systematically refuses to delete or block illegal content, the bill suggests.

The companies will have to publish a report every six months, describing in detail how they have dealt with complaints of hate speech on their platforms, the bill suggests.

According to Maas, who proposed the bill back in March, the number of hate crimes in Germany jumped by over 300 percent in the last two years.

“This law is the logical next step for effectively tackling hate speech since all voluntary agreements with the platform providers have been virtually unsuccessful,” the Central Council of Jews in Germany said, praising the measure, as cited by Reuters.

However, the companies affected, including Facebook, did not welcome the bill, saying it could crack down on free speech.

“This law as it stands now will not improve efforts to tackle this important social problem,” a Facebook statement said.

“We feel that the lack of scrutiny and consultation do not do justice to the importance of the subject. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure safety for the people on our platform.”

“RSF opposes this bill, which would just contribute to the trend to privatize censorship by delegating the duties of judges to commercial online platforms and making them decide where or not content should be deleted, as if the Internet giants can replace independent and impartial courts,” said Elodie Vialle, the head of RSF’s Journalism and Technology desk.