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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    Sometimes what’s been deemed “verified” on Wikipedia seems too strange to be true. In Wikipedia for the Weird, the Daily Dot tracks down the most bizarre and entertaining entries on the Web’s crowdsourced encyclopedia, sending you down the rabbit hole even further.

    You can find many secret things on Wikipedia, but Wikipedia isn’t really the place you should be “keeping” your secrets. Someone should tell that to the U.S. Government, whose numerous Secret Service codenames are just HERE for people to find. Anyone can just walk right up to a computer, punch a few keystrokes, and KNOW exactly what the Secret Service calls Obama behind his back. It’s “Renegade,” by the way, which is pretty badass.

    But sadly, not every president (or figure deemed important enough to receive a Secret Service name) has such an impressive nickname. Let’s go through some of the best, and then you’ll know exactly what historically accurate names to call your friends behind their backs.

    Since I already gave away Obama’s codename, did you know the First Lady goes by “Renaissance”? That’s actually quite poetic. Their young ones, Malia and Sasha, go by “Radiance” and “Rosebud,” respectively. All in all, a seemingly well-respected bunch, if their codenames reveal any insight into how they’re viewed by their White House coworkers. Why no one ventured for “O” nouns, I’ll never know. Opulence, Originality, OMG, Orange...See? I could’ve helped.

    Both Bushes (that’s H.W. and W.) got stuck with “T”, and that made for a hilarious string of nouns. H.W. is “Timberwolf” while W. is “Tumbler”—whatever that means! Poor W. got stuck with a misspelling of everyone’s favorite blogging platform. There’s even an additional name tacked on there that I’m sure they gave W. after he complained: “Trailblazer.” (Happy now, George?)

    The rest of the Bush brigade reads like an episode of 19 Kids and Counting. (The Duggars are “J’s”, however.) Barbara’s “T” name is “Tranquility, but she apparently also goes by “Snowbank” when feeling whimsical. “Tuner,” “Trapline,” and “Tripper” are the rest of the H.W. clan. (Remind anyone of someone else’s political family?) W.’s fam is lead by Barbara, or “Tempo” as she is called, and their two kids: “Turquoise” and “Twinkle.”

    Not everyone gets honored so... nicely. Everyone’s favorite Massachusetts native Ted Kennedy went by “Sunburn”—perhaps a cruel jab at the fair-skinned senator of Irish descent? The rest of the Kennedys got lovely “L” names like “Lancer,” “Lace,” and “Lyric.”  Ron Nessen, White House press secretary for President Gerald Ford (a.k.a. “Pass Key”), was deliciously called “Clam Chowder.” Prince Charles was inexplicably “Unicorn,” and even Frank Sinatra had a name— “Napoleon.” Last, but certainly not least: Vice President Al Gore was “Sundance,” but his eldest daughter Karenna? “Smurfette.”

    Photos via Wikipedia


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    The creator of popular webcomic Pictures for Sad Children has posted a Kickstarter update in which he claims to have faked depression, drawing mixed reactions from his backers.

    On Wednesday, John Campbell, whose webcomic employs dark humor, updated the Sad Pictures for Children Kickstarter page— a successful campaign that funded a second collection of his webcomic work—with a lengthy post entitled “I’ve been pretending to be depressed for profit and I’m sorry.”

    Campbell details how as a child he feigned sadness to imitate artists and authors who appeared to be afflicted by the melancholic condition. As he grew older, he realized that he wasn’t actually despondent, but that he was only behaving that way because he thought that’s what creative types do.

    His solution? To stop the charade and declare that he is not unhappy.

    “I've done a lot of soul-searching and now believe it is my calling to be the first ‘artist’ to admit to an audience ‘I've been pretending to be depressed.’”

    Campbell also confessed that his biggest regret wasn’t that he capitalized on his feigned depression, but that he made it easier for what he calls “borderline people” to trick themselves into thinking that they too had the blues.

    “Any work participating in the ‘culture of depression’ has probably contributed to these sad unnecessary cases.”

    Campbell concluded his admission with a mea culpa and a plea for forgiveness.

    He also provided an actual progress report on Sad Pictures for Children, indicating that the book should be finished and delivered by the end of the year. Supporters of the project were originally scheduled to receive their rewards in July 2012.

    The post has earned some attention, getting more than 500 likes on Facebook within hours of its publication. It has also saw mixed reactions from those that contributed to the campaign.

    Some, like backer Peter Odom, felt that Campbell was trivializing the desolation felt by those afflicted with depression.

    “Whenever you do get around to sending books out, please don’t bother sending any to the address I provided,” Odom replied.

    “I don’t need another reminder in my life of the existence of people like you, who hand-wave away the suffering of others as a false consciousness they are too self-indulgent to break away from.”

    Others took his word at face value and even referenced a Sept. 11 comic where a character says “But I faked being depressed for so long” in a hidden panel as proof that the artist was being sincere.

    The majority of the commenters reacted as if the update was a 681-word joke. One particular individual, cited the absurd language of the following passage as the reveal of the gag:

    “I got more and more exhausted with acting unhappy and withdrew from the majority of my friends. I spent a great deal of time alone and extremely happy, making art suggesting otherwise in order to attract others who were also pretending to be what I was faking.”

    The Daily Dot reached out to Campbell seeking clarification on the intent of his post, but the artist has not responded as of this writing.

    Photo via Kevin Dooley/Flickr


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    It should surprise no one that companies relentlessly compile details of your personal life to make you a better target to advertisers. One in three Facebook apps knows your birthday. Almost two thirds of Americans trust Facebook “only a little” or not at all. A thoughtless joke posted to your Twitter account can get you detained at the airport.

    So how do you protect your privacy without giving up being online? According to journalists Steffan Heuer and Pernille Tranberg, you start by not being completely honest when the Internet asks you for your personal info.

    That’s the idea behind Fake It!: A Digital Guide to Self-Defense, their new book about achieving a sensible level of privacy in today’s world. Its logic goes like this: The more comprehensive and accurate a profile companies like Facebook can make of you, the more you’re worth to them. But that means less and less privacy for you, so the best way to deal with sites that force you to tell them information is to feed them disinformation.

    Actively protecting yourself against being tracked online is a necessity, Heuer told the Daily Dot. “Otherwise we're all the prey caught between outdated laws and fast-moving tech businesses.”

    A few easy tips: Maintain a fake birthday that you use for all accounts. Don’t ever update your status to tell people you’re going on vacation—someone with loose morals could realize that’s the perfect time to rob you. And take care what you say about your job, especially on sites where you use your real name—some bosses will stalk you, and take it personally.

    Some companies, like Google, are remarkably open about which of your information they track. Anyone with a Google account (and that means everyone, right?) can simply go to their Dashboard to see unnerving stats like who you contact most, what kind of smartphone you have associated with your account, and your phone history if you use Google Voice.

    Eventually, Fake It! argues, you should think about using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to hide your IP address from snooping websites. But you don’t need to take such advanced steps to start being more cautious online.

    “Not enough people think before they post. It sounds very simple, but what you say will be mined, stored, and recombined in ways you cannot imagine,” Heuer said.

    Photo via Imgur


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    If Tony Soprano is looking for some anonymity, he might want to logout of Facebook.

    Police in Italy are using Facebook to track and identify mobster’s criminal activity who are using the social networking site. Mafia members use it to send threats, purchase and sell drugs, and communicate with each other, according to Rome-based newsmagazine, L’Espresso.

    Authorities are increasing their monitoring of social network sites because they provide a candid glimpse into how the groups operate and also highlight connections between criminals.

    “For us it is an important tool," said Alessandro Giuliano, head of police in Milan, to L’Espresso. "It shows the interlinkages between people. The photographic material is also a starting point for investigations."

    Criminals using Facebook and other sites indicates an evolution on how the mafia groups communicate. In the past, criminals used landline telephones, then moved to mobile phones. Now their preferred form of communication is the Internet.

    "Facebook allows you to spread messages in a simple and direct way,” said Antonello Ardituro, a mafia prosecutor in Naples.

    The report highlighted several examples of how the police used Facebook to nab criminals.

    In one, a mafia boss was caught after he posted photos on his girlfriend’s Facebook page showing his location. In another, the police nabbed a suspected killer after tracing the IP address associated with his Facebook account.

    Photo via Movieclips/YouTube

     


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    Beth Cook is a dating coach and wing-woman who throws private dating events for San Francisco’s most awesome and unattached. She also writes and draws about her own dating experiences and would love to hear from you. Want advice? Have advice? Send her an email.

    I recently wrote about how to survive a heart-wrenching breakup, as I've seen more relationships crumble this year than most. (Thanks for the bad news, Facebook.) Now let’s talk about how you get back into the dating game again—so you won't waste a minute when it's go-time.

    First of all, how do you know when you're ready? Ask yourself the following questions: Can you hear a sad song on the radio without shedding a tear? Can you watch a romantic comedy without feeling sorry for yourself? Is reality TV losing its nightly appeal? Do you feel pings of excitement when thinking about meeting someone new? If you answered “yes” to all of the above, then you're ready!

    Now, here's what to do:

    1) Get cute.

    Buy a new shirt, get a haircut, go for a run, start sporting red lipstick. There's no right or wrong here. Just do a few of the simple things that make you feel attractive.

    2) Turn your inner taxi light on.

    Adjust your attitude. You're no longer a hopeless person destined to fail at love. You're a catch! A desirable soul with tons to offer the world. Be available. Be open, receptive, and curious.

    3) Be brutally honest with yourself.

    What do you really want? A boyfriend, a husband, a wife? Think about it. And remember those lessons you learned from your previous relationship. Don’t repeat your mistakes.

    4) Set up online dates.

    The best way to practice dating is by going out with people who are completely outside your circle of friends; it’s less pressure. And the best way to find those people? Internet dating. Set aside your reservations or judgments about all those dating sites, pick one that feels comfortable, and dive into setting up that profile. You don’t have to find your soulmate now, contrary to eHarmony’s strangely hypnotic ads. Just get back into the swing of telling entertaining anecdotes about yourself. And ask damn good questions about your date.

    5) Ask your friends and coworkers about their single friends.

    Do this after you've gone on a few practice dates and are feeling back in the groove. Start by asking your couple friends. Couples want to couple up their single pals—they'll quickly introduce you to their other available singletons. Hell, they'll probably even host something just for you. But a word of warning: Don't let them breath a word to their potential matches. Obvious set-ups get awkward—fast.

    6) Get tech savvy.

    The social scene today is easier than ever to dive into (be it after new moves, or just long periods of hermit hibernation). There are bounties of of tech companies whose entire mission statements revolve around creating social experiences for young urbanites in search of friends (read: dates, and, probably, sex). This is actually a great way to meet new prospects without the pressure of an official date, and instead under the guise of a love for Indian food or French cinema. Try Grubwithus.com, Sōsh.com, or Grouper.com.

    7) Laugh at yourself.

    Practice makes perfect, right? Accept the fact that you're going to make a few mistakes along the way. You're going to get nervous and say the wrong thing to someone cute, you'll probably not give a fair chance to someone who's worth it, and you'll definitely spill something brightly colored on yourself while eating. Forgive yourself, brush it off, and try your darndest to do better next time.

    Photo by Kevin Dooley


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    The Austin Police Department has a simple, but weighty, message: It gets better.

    In the seven-minute clip, gay employees from the police department share their personal stories of coming out and acceptance. The “It Gets Better”-endorsed video was released Saturday, in tandem with the Texas city’s annual pride celebrations.

    The video features candid stories of the officers’ childhood struggles, their fears of not being hired by the APD, and their personal stories of coming out.

    “I didn’t want to call myself gay because gay meant you’re broken, you’re not right” confessed a male officer. “I never wanted to say that I was gay.”

    APD Police Chief Art Acevedo also appeared in the touching video. He spoke about the importance of diversity and how he, too, experienced being different from others, as he was an immigrant who didn’t speak English when he came to America.

    “No matter who you are, we’ve created a safe environment for employees and our number one goal is to create a safe environment for you,” said Acevedo. “Our doors are open, they’re welcoming and we will be here to embrace no matter who you are.”

    The video, which has racked up 48,000 views, is being praised by commenters on the video’s YouTube page.

    “Beautiful. This made me cry tears of joy. We need more people like you guys in the world,” wrote iheartnaley. Several other users posted messages thanking the APD for releasing the video.

    On Facebook, Austin-based music writer Andy Langer posted two comments of praise about the video, including a note lauding the APD for “creating a culture where a) this video was made, and b) officers are able to show up at work this comfortably and bravely.”

    Photo via YouTube


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    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Arrested Development’s Lucille Bluth have a lot in common.

    They both have a somewhat forgotten “Ann” in their lives, frequent country clubs, are largely out of touch with the masses, and struggle with the economic realities affecting those around them.

    After a somewhat sporadic posting schedule, the Lucille and Mitt Tumblr got back on track last week with several posts poking fun at a leaked video of Romney decrying the 47 percent of Americans who apparently don’t pay federal income tax.

    The blog, created by graphic designer J. Adam Brinson, pairs up quotes from the candidate with images of the Bluth family matriarch. It’s remarkably convincing in that all of the real-life Romney quotes sound like something Bluth would say in her closeted, high-profile world. It’s also darn funny.

    A post featuring Romney’s comment, “95 percent of life is set up for you if you're born in this country,” sounds just like something the xenophobic Bluth would blurt out. It’s grabbed 151 likes and reblogs since Friday.

     

    The upper-class element of Arrested Development was previously mashed up on Tumblr with posh Brit show Downton Abbey.

    If Romney is elected and needs help fixing the economy, there’s only one thing he needs to remember if he can’t claim federal taxes from the 47 percent: There’s always money in the banana stand.

    Photos via Lucille and Mitt/Tumblr


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    Facebook might have had some users believing their pre-2009 private messages popped up on their public timeline, but the perceived privacy flaw is not as clear as it seems.

    The company claims that people who say they’re seeing old private messages made visible to everyone are actually just spotting old posts that friends posted on their walls, adding that since comments and likes did not appear on wall posts prior to 2008, users often posted on each other’s walls in a back-and-forth manner.

    Since only one side of the conversation is visible, some users may have believed that a bug caused their private messages to be exposed to the world, Facebook suggested.

    The initial reports emanated from France, where TechCrunch notes that the country-wide roll out of the Timeline-style profile was completed Monday, which may have caused concern for some who haven’t seen those posts in years.

    TechCrunch’s Josh Constine reported that Facebook’s messaging and wall post systems are completely separate. Reuters Social Media Editor Anthony De Rosa argued the contrary to Facebook’s claims, tweeting that wall posts were mixed with private messages on his timeline.

    In any case, with a hat tip to David Langer, you can hide these old posts from your timeline if you’d prefer not to delete them. Here’s how:

    1) Access your Privacy Settings.

    2) Click on the Timeline and Tagging section.

    3) From the “Who can see what others post on your timeline” setting, click the Custom option.

    4) In the drop-down menu, change “Make this visible” to “Only me.”

    While this will mean that no one else will be able to see anything a friend has posted on your timeline, you can take solace in the fact that no one will be able to see your potentially embarrassing old wall posts either.

    Elsewhere in Facebook drama, the company’s teamed up with a data firm to track whether you’re actually buying things when you click on Facebook ads.

    After all this privacy kerfuffle, perhaps the sleek new Myspace will have the last laugh after all.

    Photo by mikebaird/Flickr


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    In the eyes of coeditors Kristin Russo and Dannielle Owens-Reid, everyone is gay.

    The duo’s video blog of the same name answers questions from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth with a healthy dose of humor and candidness. It’s garnered 50,000 followers, more than 200,000 monthly view, and plenty of positive press.

     “Everyone Is Gay has come to symbolize how we all share so many of the same experiences and emotions,” offered Owens-Reid, 26, who notably created the popular Tumblr, in 2010. “It started as just a simple joke; we had no idea that we were forming what would eventually become a full-fledged business.”

    Introduced through mutual friends, launched Everyone is Gay in April 2010. At the time, Owens-Reid was dealing with blowback from another Tumblr blog she had created, Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber, which some readers claimed that it stereotyped the community. Russo had recently completed a gender studies course and wanted to talk to the readers to better understand their criticisms.

    “We decided to answer questions on a Tumblr and that was the beginning of the rest of our lives,” Owens-Reid said.

    It’s not difficult to surmise why Everyone is Gay has achieved such success. The blog is colorful and candid, serving as a judgment-free oasis for LGBTQ youth struggling with one of the biggest issues in their lives. And no question is off-limits.  

    A male reader, who is in a committed relationship, recently wrote in asking how to deal with the “most attractive man I have ever seen in my life.”

    “Picture him pooping,” Danielle responded. (Both authors are on a first-name basis with their readers.)  

    “Ask him if you can take a picture of him holding a sign that says, ‘Kittens are ugly and so is your mom,’ and then put it in the from part of your wallet,” Kristin offered. “HE CAN’T BE CUTE IF HE THINKS KITTENS ARE UGLY.”

    Obviously, not all of the questions submitted or responded to are that comical in scope, but it illustrates the duo’s refreshing and occasionally off-kilter approach. It’s clearly resonating with their audience. The women have more than 30,000 questions piled up in their collective inbox, waiting to be addressed.

    For Russo and Owens-Reid, it’s all about creating a safe forum where teens can open up without the fear of rejection from family members or friends.

    “We’re all people,” Owens-Reid said.

    “We all deal with intense issues and a lot them are very relatable.

    “So we say, ‘OK fine, everyone is gay/trans/bi, take that out of the equation; what are we dealing with? Someone who is afraid to talk to their parents, someone who isn’t accepted by their friends, someone who is in love with their best friend.”

    Deciding what question the women answer is a process in itself. The women look at trends (like conflicts at the end of the school year), mix up the types of questions asked (“No one wants to read six break up questions in a row,” she joked), and try to include all types of readers in the conversation.

    “We want everyone to feel included, if we haven’t answered a parent question in a while, we’ll look for that,” she said. Answers come in the form of videos the pair release weekly on their YouTube channel. To date, the duo has uploaded 62 episodes that have collected more than 1.2 million views. It’s a vlog version of Dr. Drew.

    Not surprisingly, the most popular posts on the blog are questions about breakups and troubled relationships.

    “Everyone has been there and everyone has had trouble getting over it, so they appreciate those posts,” Owens-Reid noted. “People also love to be inspired; everyone wants to follow their dreams and everyone wants to be told that it's OK to dream big.”

    Everyone is Gay is actually part of a larger initiative for the New York-based women. They visit schools nationwide, speaking about coming out and tolerance for gay youth, with same sort of charisma found in their online posts. The goal, Owens-Reid said, is “to promote kindness and daily acts of change.” It also prompts personal reflection.

    That change starts at home for Owens-Reid and Russo.

    “I think answered these questions is sort of a personal reflection [and] therapy for both us,” Owens-Reid said.

    “I think a huge part of that is because we’re constantly answering questions from any and every point of view. It’s kind of amazing.”

    Photo via Kristin Russo/Facebook


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    “It was like a game thing."

    That’s how a troll justified several years of abusive messages sent to a man that caused genuine fear for the safety of himself and his family.

    Leo Traynor’s astonishing first-person account on his blog, Traynor’s Eye, is a powerful example of what happens when one is subjected to online harassment and then meets the person responsible.

    The abuse began in July 2009, when he received a direct message on Twitter from someone he just started following, who called him a “Dirty f*cking Jewish scumbag.” Similar messages from other Twitter accounts soon followed. Traynor was forced to make his account private to avoid the abuse. Yet that didn’t help. Soon his Facebook account was hacked, his blog spammed, and his email account hit with “images of corpses and concentration camps and dismembered bodies.”

    Traynor—a writer and political consultant—kept the abuse to himself at first, but then his new-to-Twitter wife started receiving offensive messages as well and quit the community. The abuse, Traynor wrote, took a more sinister turn over the summer:

    “I received a parcel at my home address. Nothing unusual there - I get a lots of post. I ripped it open and there was a tupperware lunchbox inside full of ashes. There was a note included 'Say hello to your relatives from Auschwitz' I was physically sick. . . .

    “Two days later I opened my front door and there was a bunch of dead flowers with my wife's old Twitter username on it. Then that night I recieved a DM. 'You'll get home some day & ur b**ches throat will be cut & ur son will be gone.'”

    Traynor shut down his Twitter account and decided to take direct action. An IT-savvy friend set up a system to track the perpetrator’s IP address, a unique numerical identifier online. Using that, Traynor zeroed in on the perpetrator's location—and his identity.

    He was the son of Traynor’s friend.

    After speaking to his friend, Traynor found out the 17-year-old had become embroiled in conspiracy sites and was rarely offline. The father wanted to involve the authorities, but Traynor refused. Instead, he met with the teen and his parents.

    Traynor exchanged small talk with the boy before producing evidence of his handiwork, explaining how the abuse had caused paranoia and anxiety. He added that, when his wife received a message wishing him dead, he was “actually was gravely ill.”

    Again the parents suggested they’d support any legal action, but Traynor wouldn’t hear of it. He didn’t want to ruin a teenager’s future. All he wanted was for the boy to enter counseling. At the end of the meeting, Traynor told the boy to stand and said:

    “I'm a middle aged man with a limp and a wheeze and a son and a wife that I love. I'm not just a little avatar of an eye. You're better than this. You have a name of your own. Be proud of it. Don't hide it again and I won't ruin it if you play ball with your parents. Now shake hands."

    The teen thanked Traynor for “giving me a break” and shook on it.

    Traynor rejoined Twitter afterwards and urged others not to be disheartened by the community due to his own experiences: “If you feel put off Twitter by my blog - don't be! Take a look at all the lovely people who've supported me today. People are basically good”

    While we’ve seen other cases where an individual confronted a troll, Traynor’s openness provides a truly harrowing account. He insisted that while he was tempted to react differently when confronting the troll, he’s “just a messed up kid who needs help - his Mum's face was punishment enough.”

    Commenters applauded Traynor for how he reacted. “Everyone should take heart from the true nature of the 'threat' and the civilised way you dealt with it,” offered Jason Stone.

    It’s easy to hide under a veil of anonymity and attack someone else, or even to do so under our own names. Traynor’s tale is a stark reminder that there’s a living, breathing person on the other end of abusive messages.

    Photo via Leo Traynor/Google+


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    "I thought I wasn't worthy. I was this big old joke," 16-year-old Whitney Kropp told The Detroit News about her selection to homecoming court.

    And she was right though not for long.

    What started out as a nasty prank by Ogemaw Heights High School bullies to humiliate the West Branch, Michigan teen, transformed into an outpouring of support the likes of which the small farming town has never seen.

    Pointing and laughing in the high school's hallways soon gave way to words of encouragement from classmates swimming against the current.

    "She was getting ridiculed in school and on Facebook," Whitney's mother, Bernice Kropp told NBC News. "But then the kids started coming up to her and saying, 'Whitney, don't let them stop you from going to homecoming. You need to go ahead, you need to do it.'"

    The support eventually extended to the rest of the town, where the "quiet, polite and kind" sophomore is being pampered by local businesses looking to pay for all her homecoming needs, from hairstyling to dinner to a shiny tiara.

    Word spread far beyond the borders of West Branch to the rest of the nation through Facebook, where a Team Whitney support page has nearly 40,000 likes and counting.

    "You want to protect your kid, and you feel angry and mad at what has happened," Kropp said. "But at the same time the outpouring to help her has been beyond expected."

    By Neetzan Zimmerman, screengrab via YouTube


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    Facial hair: Some girls got it. It derives from a condition called hirsutism, and if you're a practicing Sikh, you wear it proudly.

    That's the lesson we've learned from Balpreet Kaur, the eloquent woman whose photographed portrait sparked an unlikely four-day discussion on Reddit about tolerance, acceptance, and living your life with your head held high.

    On Sunday, redditor european_douchebag posted a photo he took of a woman standing in line at an airport. The woman was wearing black pants, a grey t-shirt, black glasses, and a black turban on her heard.

    She also wore something that stood out to european_douchebag: a few patches of black hair that extended around her chin, cheeks, and upper lip. To put it bluntly, she had a beard.

    European_douchebag took that as something notable and posted the photo to r/funny, along with a caption that read "I'm not sure what to conclude from this."

    Other redditors knew exactly what to make of the photo, however, and those individuals acted accordingly, letting european_douchebag know that he'd photographed a Sikh girl, one who was "Amritaari regardless of the pressures put on [them] by western society to conform."

    They called european_douchebag a "douche," downvoted the post, and told the redditor that it wasn't cool to post the photo. It was a rough go for european_douchebag, whose r/funny post was hardly perceived as funny.

    That's when Kaur showed up and told everybody that she was the woman in the photo. And the way she did it put on full display just how tolerant, patient, and accepting a person she is.

    "Hey, guys," she wrote. "This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn't know about this until one of my friends told on Facebook.

    If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I'm not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it's who I am. Yes, I'm a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women.

    However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn't reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying 'mine, mine' and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions.

    My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can.

    So, to me, my face isn't important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-) So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I've gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this.

    Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :) I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone."

    She explained that "the over arching principal is this body is a tool for service" and that Sikhs intend to maintain and care for it as it's presented in its original form.

    "In this sense, going to the hospital is okay," she wrote. "Eating medicine is fine, because it maintains the body. A sick ailing body can not serve as efficiently as an able. My hair doesn't stop me from being normal or doing service so its not a hinderance."

    Redditors immediately rushed to her side, calling her "beautiful" and "awesome."

    "May the divine in your continue to guide and protect you," redditor Tossy19818 added. "You responded so beautifully because you are a magnificent energy field who is here on this physical plane to teach. I shed tears reading your response."

    Even european_douchebag was swayed by Kaul's response, reporting Wednesday afternoon that the two talked and the redditor now "see[s] how stupid this post was in the first place."

    "Yeah it's not something you see everyday but that doesn't make it funny," european_douchebag wrote.

    The redditor even had the presence of mine to post a follow-up thread on r/funny after having time to pick up some perspective.

    "I know that this post ISN'T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture," european_douchebag wrote. "Put simply it was stupid.

    "Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you're making fun of. It was an incredibly, rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post.

    "I've read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant."

    Lessons on ignorance, faith, and judgment. Who says redditors are all about seedy strippers and WTF?

    Photo via european_douchebag/Reddit


    0 0

    All the Internet’s a game, and all the men and women merely players.

    If that’s largely true, it raises the question: What do you get points for?

    The metaphor of the Internet as a game ran rather nakedly through a couple of interviews with trolls—users who post inflammatory and insensitive comments in online spaces to create controversy and emotional reactions. Each troll was speaking at the moment after the princess proffered her kiss and turned him into a real boy, that moment when the Web’s veil of anonymity had been lifted forcing the bully to have to directly confront his victim.

    The mechanics of the Internet are as much about scoring points as they are about protocols and fiber optics—and those points are scored in the same ways that mankind has been scoring points since he walked out of the jungle

    ***

    One 17-year-old in Ireland. started a campaign of vicious online attacks with a simple Direct Message on Twitter, calling the recipient, Leo Traynor, a “Dirty f*cking Jewish scumbag.”

    The troll hacked Traynor’s Facebook, spammed his blog, and email bombed him with gut-churning images of concentration camps’ crimes against humanity.

    But this particular troll was not satisfied with online abuse. Traynor wrote:

    “I received a parcel at my home address. Nothing unusual there - I get a lots of post. I ripped it open and there was a tupperware lunchbox inside full of ashes. There was a note included 'Say hello to your relatives from Auschwitz' I was physically sick. . . .

    “Two days later I opened my front door and there was a bunch of dead flowers with my wife's old Twitter username on it. Then that night I recieved a DM. 'You'll get home some day & ur b**ches throat will be cut & ur son will be gone.'”

    Why? Why would one human being do this to another?

    “It was like a game thing,” the troll said.

    ***

    While it’s not nearly as elaborate or offensive, an equally unpleasant episode recently occurred on Reddit. European_douchebag posted a picture of a young woman with a beard, under the caption “I’m not sure what to conclude from this,” in r/funny.

    Of course, european_douchebag got lots of comments supporting his impulse to make fun of the girl, but many that took him to task, including one user who called him a “douche.”

    Why would he do such a thing?

    “I made that post for stupid internet points,” he later wrote, “and I was ignorant.”

    Of course, Reddit’s upvotes are literally Internet points, but they’re also much more than that. They’re the same points, in this case, that a bully gets every time he scores one off the class nerd or that any of us get showing up at our class reunion in the most expensive car.

    ***

    There’s nothing all that unique about a couple trolls on the Internet. What was surprising here is how their victims turned the tables on them.

    Traynor used his troll’s IP address to track down his abuser. It was the son of a friend of his.

    Traynor confronted his troll with the evidence, and the boy’s parents wanted to involve the authorities. Traynor refused, asking only that he enter counseling. He told the young man:

    “I'm a middle aged man with a limp and a wheeze and a son and a wife that I love. I'm not just a little avatar of an eye. You're better than this. You have a name of your own. Be proud of it. Don't hide it again, and I won't ruin it if you play ball with your parents. Now shake hands."

    ***

    Some friends let the young woman with the beard, Balpreet Kaur, know that her picture was on Reddit, and she jumped into the thread, saying, “If the [original poster] wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled.”

    She wrote that she was not embarrassed or humiliated by the attention, because she, as a Sikh, believes in the sacredness of the body:

    “It is a gift that has been give to us by the Divine Being and, [we] must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will.... By crying ‘mine, mine’ and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a separateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions.”

    European_douchebag wrote the following in response:

    “Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you’re making fun of. It was an incredibly, rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post. I’ve read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like.”

    ***

    If the Internet (and life itself) is a big game of Super Mario Bros., then each of these trolls was the little, squashed Mario, smashing mushroom caps for a hundred points a go.

    Traynor and Kaur, however, were the great big Mario, resplendent with fireballs, leaping to the tippy top of the flag pole for 5,000 points and getting the big fireworks.

    What’s even better, is that in the moment each of them confronted their trolls, each troll himself became a kind of Luigi, getting to share the high score.

    Photo by Mooshuu


    0 0

    A father who wore a skirt in public to support his dress-wearing son is speaking out about the Internet’s reaction to his clothes.

    Over the summer, writer Nils Pickert wrote an article for Emma, a prominent German feminist magazine. Pickert explained that his five-year-old son sometimes liked to wear his big sister’s old clothes in public. Pickert took to wearing a skirt in solidarity so nobody would bother his son.

    After somebody translated the article into English, the photo went viral in late August. On Tumblr, one instance of the photo got more than 70,000 notes.

    “During my vacation, the Internet did something I never expected—but obviously should have,” Pickert wrote for Stylelist. “Someone translated my article and it quickly spread across the world. I got emails and calls from people all over the place.”

    Pickert said he was bowled over by Internet users’ responses to the photo.

    “Many people read the original EMMA piece and thought well of me; others were pissed off or disgusted by my alleged ‘sissy’ behavior. Others still presumed base motives—suggesting that I was trying to pull a stunt at the expense of my son—or accused me of bad parenting for encouraging his temporary dissocial preference.”

    In response, Pickert wrote the English language article for Stylelist in order to respond to some of these accusations. The main thing he wanted to clear up—the fact that he wouldn’t be wearing womens’ clothing if he weren’t a dad.

    “I will confess that I don't particularly like wearing skirts or dresses,” he said. “I'm like a soccer mom who doesn't love the sport—but does love her kids. I couldn't care more about my boy being a happy, self-assured, compassionate person.”

    Pickert’s son may grow out of wanting to wear dresses in public. But even if he doesn't, he’ll always be able to count on his dad.

    Photo via Nils Pickert/EMMA


    0 0

    We love the Internet. Except when we hate it. Every week, Jordan Valinsky bottles the angst of his Millennial generation and finds something to despise about the Web.

    Like a gassy, sour burp, Myspace just keeps lingering in the air around us. Somebody get me a Tums.

    On Monday, the company unveiled its new vision for the allegedly still-breathing social networking site. That was the media’s cue to let loose an insufferable onslaught of Sexyback puns, treating part-owner and erstwhile Target clothing line designer Justin Timberlake as a Web messiah conducting a resurrection.  

    The introduction video to Myspace 3.0 is a mixed bag, leaving many surprised, bewildered, and knowing far too much about the life of one David Croft, a fake person who resembles the muppetified lovechild of Tumblr CEO David Karp and Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley.

    Like many things Myspace, Croft is too easy a target—someone who obviously said “Yo!” a lot during his experimental college years. The video pans across a profiled world of social awkwardness, including Croft’s dryer-puffed bowl haircut; a playlist called “Dope tunes” (obviously culled by hitting the “Related artists” tab on Wilco’s Spotify page); his favorite color (fluorescent beige!); and his ability to eat cookies as “Second to NOM.” That last one makes me SMDH.

    He is also a veritable fount of wit: “No idea how you guys in cold climates get any work done,” says one update. Yo Croftduster, I hereby bestow upon you the deepest Illumanti secret for protection from chillier temps: jackets. I’m so relieved that Myspace is back, so we can all finally share in such profound social commentary.

    The two-minute welcome video fits right in to the Myspace culture: It’s trying so, so hard. Too hard. It’s even got the indie soundtrack to match. Take note, Myspacers: JJAMZ is the new Alex Clare.

    But! Croft’s profile looks, well, good. The interface is sleek and modern; it is basked in monochromatic colors and laid out in clean, browseable squares. That goes for the actual site, too. It may hurt to admit given the staggering lack of cool, but it’s not ugly. It’s actually pretty.

    New Myspace has tossed aside its Dickies and blink-182 T-shirt, donned skinny jeans and an expensive fedora it found on Gilt. It got some work done and fixed that deviated septum.

    Then it went on to a small liberal arts college in the Northeast, discovered what "free-range" coffee beans were, got a few vintage-inspired tattoos. And from the few glimpses we’ve got here, the new Myspace got around the freshman dorm a little. It made out with Pinterest’s board, snogged Tumblr’s glossy pictures, and played with Spotify’s knobs.

    In the end, though, poor, promiscuous Myspace will be doing a walk of shame in the cold light of morning. Glossy squares and chic design aside, it’s is still kind of a poser, trying—so very, very hard—to be what the cool kids are so effortlessly. The new Myspace is just a cocktail of a bunch of social networks and services that we’re already using in other ways.

    We don’t need another place to show off our lives, unless Ole Sexyback is personally going to write my friends’ birthday wishes for me. So goodbye, David Croft. Go get a haircut.

    Photo via Myspace


    0 0

    If you're a porn star and you learn that a bunch of other porn stars have a bad STD, what you want to know right away is if you've fucked any of those people. This August, a syphilis outbreak plunged the San Fernando Valley's multibillion dollar porn industry into chaos, and any information about the origins and extent of the scourge was maddeningly sparse. So when the porn gossip blogger Mike South confirmed the identify of the outbreak's "patient zero" as a porn star who'd covered up his positive syphilis test, the relief was palpable among performers who could now at least roughly gauge their own exposure.

    It was another scoop in the long career of Mike South, the gonzo king of porn gossip. With sometimes questionable tactics but undeniable perseverance, Mike South has done more than any one person to expose the dark side of the porn industry he loves.

    South, 54 years old, is a small-time porn producer and actor, but his unfiltered personality and reporting chops have made his gossip blog, Mikesouth.com (NSFW), a must-read in the smut industry. For more than a decade, South has churned out a pungent mix of rumors, rants and essays, sprinkled with the occasional gallery of girls from the amateur porn sites—Southern Bukkake is his biggest—he runs to pay the bills. If, as Ron Jeremy has said, the porn industry is like a family, Mike South is the know-it-all uncle you'd avoid at reunions if he wasn't right so much of the time.

    "Anyone with any amount of influence in the industry reads Mike South," said Alec Helmy, owner of the porn industry trade publication Xbiz. " He is the king of porn gossip today." Though South won't say how many pageviews he gets per day, he says it's "in the thousands." A major scoop can bring in tens of thousands of pageviews.

    A large part of what makes South such a phenomenon is his fearless—some would say reckless—railing against the entrenched institutions and figureheads of the adult industry. The porn industry sometimes seems to combine the oversized egos of Hollywood with the inscrutable power structures of organized crime. Mike South Hulk-smashes through it all with an anarchic distrust of all concentrated power and a Wikileaks-style taste for radical transparency. He's a self-styled defender of porn's powerless and self-described "gun-totin' Libertarian."

    "When somebody mistreats the talent, or somebody does something scummy, that's a story and that's why a lot of people within the industry turn to my blog because it is a mirror on them," South said. "It lets the industry take a look at itself and sometimes say, ‘Well maybe there are some things we need to change, or maybe we do need to reign that person in.'"

    This attitude has won South many readers but few friends among porn's power elite. Many view him with the same mixture of fear and loathing as mainstream movie executives see the notorious Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke. Once a few years ago, South came home to a disturbing display on the doorstep of his Atlanta townhouse: A box with a sympathy card, a bottle of lighter fluid, a book of matches and a toy fire truck.

    "I took it as a direct threat," South told me recently in his thick Southern accent.

    "I've got a stack of death threats three feet high. It was the abundance of death threats that inspired me to get the concealed carry permit."

    "I talk to quite a number of people in the industry who read Mike South regularly but would never, ever admit it," said the journalist Richard Abowitz, who covers the porn industry for The Daily Beast. "I actually think they review events and change information to make it look like the things on his blog are wrong. That's how obsessed they are with him."

    If Mike South wrote about me, I too would do everything in my power to prove him wrong. Almost everyone who sparks South's interest he puts into one of two categories on his blog: a scumbag screwing up the porn industry, or a moron who's letting the scumbags getting away with it. In the rare instance that someone earns Mike South's praise, you can almost guarantee they'll be written off as a moron or a scumbag within the next month.

    But South matches his muckraking attitude with a muckraker's ability to dig up facts powerful people don't want known. He monitors the numerous porn industry message boards like they're police scanners, and a stream of tips unlikely sources fill his inbox. Last December, South broke the news that Luxembourg-based porn giant Manwin had purchased the adult film studio Digital Playground. The deal was massive (within the industry, it was compared to Disney buying Pixar) and Manwin preferred to keep it quiet. But South got a tip from a worker in Digital Playground's IT department. The IT guy had noticed that the checks he processed from Digital Playground's affiliate websites were suddenly being made out to Manwin.

    "There's an old saying, if you want to know who's going to get laid off ask the IT guy first," South said. They're the ones deleting all the email accounts.

    ***

    South's combination of self-righteousness and doggedness has been on full display in the fallout from the August syphilis outbreak, in which about 9 performers contracted the disease. South was the first to confirm that the source of this outbreak was a well-liked porn veteran named Mr. Marcus, who has since admitted that he hid a positive syphilis test so he could continue to work.

    In breaking the story, South scored one of the biggest scoops of his career and upset a carefully-orchestrated PR effort by the Free Speech Coalition, the porn industry's trade group, to have Mr. Marcus confess to sympathetic news outlets. After Mr. Marcus came to the FSC for help, the organization arranged for him to do interviews with the two porn trade publications, Adult Video News and Xbiz. They agreed to simultaneously publish their stories the day after interviewing him.

    But just hours after Mr. Marcus gave his sanctioned interviews, he called up South. Based on tips, South had been hinting on his blog for days that Marcus was patient zero, and Marcus gave emotional confession in a voicemail on his cell phone. South immediately posted the recording, scooping Xbiz and AVN by hours.

    In the message, Mr. Marcus offers a rambling apology, addressing to the entire industry.

    "I just want to say I'm sorry, my conscience is heavy and I'm way better than this," Marcus says. "It's unprofessional, inconsiderate, I just wasn't thinking clearly."

    Mr. Marcus' voicemail showed the extent to which South has become a de facto mouthpiece for porn performers. The voicemail not only confirmed crucial information about Marcus' role in the outbreak, it was also raw and dramatic. It resonated with performers in a way that the FSC-sanctioned reports never could have done. After South posted the clip, his site crashed from the flood of traffic.

    "I believe [Mr. Marcus] just saw the value of getting in touch with me," South said. "He felt like I was on the frontline on this story and he had heard my name enough times that he decided it would probably be in his best interest to get a message out through me."

    The syphilis scandal has also given South the opportunity to rail against his favorite villain, Manwin. As the porn industry has moved away from VHS and DVDs to online content, Manwin Technologies has grown into a multi-million dollar behemoth. The company was started by Belgian programmer Fabian Thylmann, who capitalized early on the trend towards free porn "tube" sites—the x-rated YouTube clones—by buying up big tube sites like xTube and Pornhub. Leveraging wealth earned from advertising on the tube sites, Manwin has amassed a porn empire that includes popular properties like Brazzers, Digital Playground and Playboy TV. But Manwin's rise has earned it scorn from many industry insiders. They believe the company pillaged the industry by flooding the market with free, sometimes pirated porn that is easily accessed through the tube sites.

    "My problem with Manwin is that they made their money off of their tube sites and those tube sites are notorious for hosting copyrighted content," South told me. "What they ended up doing was devaluing the content massively, and then going into the content producers and saying, ‘Hey, your stuff is up here anyway, why don't you just sell us the rights to use it?' It's like this huge assimilation machine that's steadily sliming through Porn Valley and assimilating everything they touch."

    At nearly every turn in the syphilis scandal, South divined some attempt by Manwin to use its outsize influence to bully the industry into line. When Manwin announced it would require its stars to either get an antibiotic shot or wait months before performing, South saw a horrendous breach of personal liberty. He fired off an acerbic post that called out Thylmann by name: "A Post for you Fabian Thylman (sic) and the Rest of you Fucking Morons Pretending to be Doctors."

    Even before the scandal, South's frequent rants against Manwin were enough to draw out the reclusive Thylmann. In the comments he often attempts to correct South's facts, which South has a tendency to bend to fit his pointed view.

    "Let me take care of enforcing our rules, you can continue taking care of spreading false information and pretending you are a journalist," Thylmann commented on a post in which South criticized Manwin's performer testing practices.

    (Manwin would not make Thylmann available to comment.)

    But many performers in porn valley are sympathetic to South's anti-Manwin bent: like him, they've grown skeptical of the company's ever-increasing industry dominance.

    "They're becoming a monopoly, and I think that's what people are afraid of," said porn star Danny Wylde. South says a number of performers have complained to him that Manwin will cut them off if they demand to use condoms, despite Manwin's professed openness to optional condom use. And Manwin suffers from something of a culture clash with the San Fernando Valley—imagine if Google took over Hollywood: The company's coldly efficient, technology-driven operation and European headquarters means it hasn't ingratiated itself with performers and agents in Porn Valley, says porn lawyer Michael Fatorossi.

    "The way Manwin does their production, based on all of the tube sites and all of the traffic they have, they are very good at consumer research," he said. "They can see which girls are popular and which aren't popular and it drives who they shoot. It's good from a business standpoint, but when it comes to a public relations standpoint in the industry that's not so good."

    Even so, South's fixation on the company—which essentially renders Manwin the shadowy force behind a massive industry decline—can seem simplistic and paranoid, especially to an outsider. In the case of the syphilis scandal, Manwin did require the shots, but also offered to pay for them—not an unreasonable measure to keep its workers from contracting a serious disease. And the company has recently launched a subsidy fund to help porn stars cover STD testing. This is undeniably a boon for cash-strapped performers, but South spun it into another conspiracy meant to further cement Manwin's control.

    "You can't get mad at [Manwin] for helping now when they screwed you over in the past," said Wylde, the performer. "It's like saying, ‘BP made that huge oil spill, that really sucks,' but then getting mad when they try to clean it up."

    When it comes to Manwin, South neutralizes criticism by being so transparently biased that to complain he has a skewed view is like complaining your donut has a hole in it. He admits not all his facts are correct, but counters that he'll promptly issue a correction if provens wrong. When asked if he has an axe to grind against Manwin, South told me, "Oh yeah I do, I'll be the first to tell you that. I've never claimed to be objective; I'm not a journalist—my site is an op-ed piece and it's my opinion."

    ***

    Many of South's opinions can be explained by his own history as a porn performer and producer. Mike South was born Mike Strother. (South is his porn name, which he says was suggested by the late, legendary Alabama songwriter Hampton Reese—"a good friend of mine.") He grew up in rural Georgia, and nothing of his early life suggested he'd pursue a career in porn. His dad owned a company that did commercial remodeling.

    "I was just an average kid," South said. "I had a great family life, there were no issues there."

    South graduated high school in 1976 and gravitated toward technology jobs, working at first for a small computer company and eventually ending up managing databases at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. After a few years working at NASA in Alabama and Florida, he quit to do independent computer consulting. He moved to Atlanta and "made obscene amounts of money."

    Mike South's break into porn came during the late 90s in Las Vegas, at the Adult Entertainment Expo. Back then, the expo was part of the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual technology extravaganza. South had started attending CES in the late 80s to keep up with developments in the field, and would always check out the adult section.

    He was sitting alone at a table eating lunch during one convention in the late 80s when the New York City fetish porn producer Rick Savage sat down next to him. They got to talking. Savage commented on his accent and asked where he was from.

    South told him he lived in Atlanta, and Savage lit up. "Oh man, Atlanta, you guys have the best strip clubs and the most beautiful women I've ever seen," he said. "Do you shoot porn in Atlanta? You should. I know someone who would buy it.'"

    BY 1992, burned out on his consulting job, decided to try his hand at porn. He knew the basics of filmmaking from shooting training videos during his days at NASA, and he'd watched a fair amount of porn. How hard could it be?

    Recruiting his stars turned out to be as easy as walking into a strip club.

    "The first girl I talked to said, ‘You're gonna pay me $500 to fuck my boyfriend? Sure, I'll do it,'" South said. South remembers thinking at the time that porn was going to be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

    He rented lighting and brought his stars to their set. But the challenge turned out to be more than technical: For two hours the stripper serviced her boyfriend orally, but he couldn't get it up. This is how South ended up starring in the first porn film he ever shot.

    "The whole concept of stage fright had never even occurred to me," South said. "So, finally, the guy looks at me and says, ‘You fuck the bitch and I'll film it.' And I'm like, um, that wasn't really what I had planned, but the show must go on. That's how my character was born."

    South's ‘character' reflects his haphazard porn origins. James Deen has been hailed for his guy-next-door style but Mike South is truly average in appearance: a burly hirsute biker dude with a thick southern accent and an amiable grin. South went on to star and produce dozens of films, including Southern Magnolias: Fire Down Below and Mike South's Peaches and Cream. But he stopped in recent years due to health problems and his advancing age.

    Atlanta is an odd place to make porn. Most of the porn you watch is made in the San Fernando Valley, hundreds of miles to the West, or in Eastern Europe. But South has come to an understanding with local authorities (the legality of shooting in Atlanta is questionable), and the untapped nature of Atlanta talent pool's seems to benefit his boot-strap operation.

    More importantly for South's blogging career, his geographical isolation means he can tap insider networks while still maintaining his bristly independence.

    "I'm a lot more isolated form the bullshit," South said. "I'm a lot less likely to defer to friendships. I have friends in the adult industry but I don't have to deal with them on a day to day basis."

    ***

    For a skilled gossip like Mike South, Porn is an especially ripe field for tilling. Good information is hard to come by, guarded jealously by industry insiders. But unlike Hollywood, which is patrolled by a phalanx of more-or-less independent mainstream entertainment reporters, the only dedicated coverage of the smut industry comes from the solicitous trades, AVN and Xbiz. While the trades do a decent job covering the comings and goings of the industry, they're beholden to porn companies and the Free Speech Coalition for access and advertising dollars.

    "There's not a lot of resouces dedicated to covering porn," said The Daily Beast's Abowitz. "Not a lot of professional journalists or commentators looking for the truth. In that absence there's a lot of rumor."

    The precariousness of the entire adult enterprise fosters a further lack of transparency. The truth does not thrive in an environment built around fake names and shell companies. And the embattled porn industry is always fending off harsh criticism from AIDS prevention groups, feminists, and the religious right, not to mention Mitt Romney. There's incentive to keep embarrassing or scandalous information quiet, as its publication will only give more ammunition to critics.

    Instead, then, the porn industry gossips. David Jennings, a former porn performer and author of the memoir Skinflicks, recalled that in the '80s the office of the porn agent Jim South, who represented a huge chunk of the industry, was the site of the industry's main rumor mill.

    "Whenever you'd go to his office there would be all these porn stars—studs and ladies—waiting around to get their five minutes with him. So a lot of the gossip got passed around there," Jennings said.

    When porn moved online, so did the gossip. Before Mike South, the adult industry of the late '90s and early '00s was dominated by the gossip blogger Luke Ford. By all accounts, Ford was as abrasive as South—Wired called him the "most hated man in porn." And Luke Ford was weird. He was an Orthodox Jewish convert (the son of an evangelical minister) who hated porn as much as porn hated him.

    "I view porn, adultery, premarital sex, all forms of sexual expression outside of marriage as sinful, meaning against God's will," he told Salon in 1999, at the height of his influence. Luke Ford was a Freudian basketcase who did his best to destroy the industry even while lusting after its stars and earning $40,000 a year trading in their gossip.

    Ford gave up porn gossip in 2001 on his Rabbi's recommendation and sold his site for $25,000. He planned on moving to Jerusalem. But he didn't get away from the industry without getting hit with a number of defamation suits, including one, by the porn star Christi Lake, that accused Ford of publishing false rumors that she'd shot a scene with a dog. Ford still blogs at Lukeford.net, but mostly on religious matters, with a special focus on the right-wing Jewish radio host Dennis Prager. 

    Back when Luke Ford was still king of porn gossip, Mike South was one of the more dedicated commenters on his blog. The two became friends. When South got sick of being a commenter, he decided to start his own blog in 2000. "I thought, if Luke Ford can do it, I can do it."

    In some ways South is just picking up where Ford left off. But South distances himself from Ford in one important aspect.

    "He hated the industry; I love the industry," South said. For South, the main problem with the industry is its exploitation of vulnerable performers. "I identify with the performers more than the company owners, and the producers and directors and I tend to stick up for the little guy, and I see the little guys as the performers. Now, don't get me wrong, I'll be the first to tell you that half the problems in this business come from performers acting like they're retarded, but still, they're my people."

    South's reputation as an advocate for performers was boosted considerably in the spring of 2011, when he spearheaded the takedown of a site called Porn Wikileaks, which published a list of thousands of performers' real names and intimate personal details in order to terrorize them. Porn Wikileaks published photos of stars' homes and phone numbers for their day jobs— even information on their children—exploiting their biggest vulnerabilities. For months, performers whispered about the site, but refused to even name it lest they become a target.

    "They all wanted to keep it under the rug and keep it quiet because they didn't want to be attacked." said performer Mercedes Ashley, who was an early Porn Wikileaks target. The trade publications were silent, as was the Free Speech Coalition. "Nobody came to the porn actors' and actresses aid except Mike South."

    Beginning in March, 2011 South hit Porn Wikileaks with a scorched-earth campaign of information warfare. He published proof that Porn Wikileaks had been started with records stolen from an STD testing database that served the porn industry, potentially in violation of HIPPA laws. He named and shamed those he believed to be involved in the site, aided, he says, by a shadowy group of hackers who leaked him information. When he published allegations that Porn Wikileaks was financially backed by a well-known porn actor the site quickly shut down in July, as did the STD clinic whose shoddy security practices left performers so vulnerable.

    South has celebrated the victory with a characteristic lack of modesty. "It was one of the more selfless things I have done in my life," he later wrote in a post. "I wasn't even on [Porn Wikileaks'] radar… but because I love the business and I have a great affection for the people in it I felt it was my obligation to enjoin that fight."

    Mercedes Ashley agreed: "He's a superhero," she said.

    But South's berserker style was criticized even as the industry celebrated the demise of Porn Wikileaks. Some complained he let his zeal overshadow the facts, dragging innocent bystanders into his crusade. One person whose correspondences South leaked, supposedly as proof of his support in Porn Wikileaks, said the messages were abridged and taken out of context.

    "If he would have published the full correspondence, it would have showed that my desire was to put that situation to an end," he said. But South, sensing he had uncovered another layer of conspiracy, blazed ahead anyway.

    One of South's former allies in the fight against Porn Wikileaks, the filmmaker and blogger Michael Whiteacre said South had less to do with Porn Wikileaks demise than he took credit for. Whiteacre and a partner painstakingly collected much of the information used to destroy Porn Wikileaks. But when they shared it with South to get his feedback, South instantly published the half-baked information, Whiteacre said.

    "That was the day I realized Mike South was only interested in Porn Wikileaks for web traffic," Whiteacre said. "Here's an old man who lives at home in Georgia, whose claim to fame is winning a best amateur porn video AVN award in 1997, who's pretending to be an expert in porn. If you want to know how to shoot a blowgang in the sticks in a shack in Georgia, Mike South is your guy. In terms of insight into an industry where everyone despises him or doesn't know who he is, it's ludicrous."

    The grudges go both ways when it comes to Mike South.

    Mike South inspires such controversy simply by being Mike South, throwing himself so fully into a story that he becomes it.

    "He's very gonzo," said Xbiz's Helmy. "He does it in a way where he just doesn't give a shit about any consequences. I believe he genuinely means well but at the same time there are times where he can be offensive."

    One of the few instances where South abandons his brash pose is when talking about what he sees as a coarsening in the porn culture. South has an ongoing crusades against the increasing popularity of porn where women are violently choked, or subjected to rape fantasies.

    "When I got into the biz in ‘92, we were much more respectful of each other," South told me "Sometime around 2000, it seems that porn became a train-wreck. People were trying to outdo each other in terms of who could stage the bigger train-wreck. That's when the risky practices, like ass-to-mouth, and the really misogynistic and violent sex scenes really started becoming the norm."

    South does things differently. "I made myself a pledge when I got into the industry that I would treat the talent with respect and a degree of responsibility," he said. "f I have a girl coming to me to shoot, she has to do more than look good. She has to convince me that she can handle it emotionally, that she's not doing it as a quick-fix to a financial problem, that she's not doing it to support a drug habit, or a sorry-ass boyfriend who is pushing her into doing it, or whatever."

    But as with the porn industry he covers, there's a darker side to South, too. Last year South was charged with 4th degree menacing, a misdemeanor, after allegedly accosting a stripper in a strip club he was helping run in Dayton, Ohio. He had broken his leg and was in a wheelchair, and the woman bumped into his bum leg. He allegedly grabbed her by the hair and screamed at her, "stupid fucking bitch, watch where you're going." A rival blogger later leaked the police report, and the case is still pending. South denies that he roughed up the woman.

    "I put my hands on her shoulder and pulled her down to where she could hear me," he said. "I called her a stupid bitch, but I would never assault a female."

    ***

    Mike South may love the porn industry, but his blog is an odd way of showing it. Wallowing in the scandal and outrage South digs up is enough to give pause to even those of us with the most permissive views on porn. The porn industry I've read about on South's blog seems to be a machine to turn naked flesh into cash with the cruel efficiency of an industrial farm churning out chicken tenders. The game for porn companies is to extract as much value from performers before they're worn out by disease or age. Inevitably, the female performers are the ones who get chewed up the fastest and are hurt the most in the process.

    But then this is Mike South's gonzo view of the porn industry, written for insiders by someone who is, increasingly, an insider himself. (This March, South was a participant on a well-attended panel at the Xbiz trade conference in Florida.) Mike South's picture of porn is a caricature that accentuates the industry's failings but contains an implicit prescription for fixing it all. For South, who often mentions the political science classes he took in college, porn should be a social contract between people who want to fuck on camera for money, gently enabled by a benevolent industry apparatus. If we could get rid of all the scumbags and morons clogging up the system, porn might actually become one big pervy, happy family.

    Buried among South's screeds are a few posts where he waxes poetic about the good in porn. In these you get a sense of his ideal industry, where performers' lack of discretion on camera translates to an unguarded warmth when nobody's filming.

    One post recalls how Ashley, one of the girls South shoots, nursed him back to health after he underwent surgery to remove a tumor on his spinal cord in 2007. The surgery caused some serious nerve damage which left South unable to walk for days, and he and Ashley booked an extended-stay handicap-accessible motel room. Ashley stayed by his side 24/7. (With her husband's consent, South says.)

    "She helped me shower and get around, and made me get out," South said. She bought him a walker when he was well enough to stand and the two tottered around the motel grounds three times a day. After five days he felt well enough to go home and Ashley drove him back and stayed a couple more days before she went back to her family.

    "I am forever in her debt for her staying with me at that time," South said. The promise of this kind of relationship is ultimately what gives South's blog, for all its darkness, an underlying sense of optimism.

    "I think that this industry attracts two kinds of guys into it, guys who love women and guys who hate women," South told me. "There are too many of the latter these days and not enough of the former. But we in the industry have the power to fix that."

    By Adrian Chen, photos via Gawker

     


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    With hundreds of millions of tweets per day, it’s impossible to follow everything happening on Twitter. Every Friday, the Daily Dot rounds up notable Twitter news and stories from the past week—in 140 characters or less.

    • Twitter CEO Dick Costolo talked some about upcoming features, such as being able to download every single one of your tweets.
    • He also has no plans to sell the company, float on the stock market, or stop standing up for users in court.
    • The company wants to add a media executive to its board. After all, Zynga’s performed well since bringing in DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.
    • Twitter cofounder Ev Williams wants to introduce a way to see how many people actively read your tweets.
    • A new Twitter email suggests people to follow. A cynic might suggest it’s so Twitter knows what you’re interested in for more targeted ads.
    • Is Twitter taking a page out of Pinterest’s books by making money from changing iTunes affiliate links?
    • China may have the highest number of active Twitter users. The service is officially blocked there, so people use alternate means to access it.
    • Europe's Ryder Cup team will be allowed to tweet at this weekend's event. Get ready to see Rory McIlroy gloat after Europe undoubtedly wins.
    • U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is about to join the community under a personal account.
    • The Wall Street Journal looked into why some Fortune 500 CEOs are great at Twitter, and others are terrified.
    • Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville stunned one of the show’s superfans (and frequent tweeter) at her New Zealand high school.
    • Business-minded women are flocking to hashtag chats for advice and networking.
    • A Microsoft employee tweeted from the firm’s account instead of his own when criticizing prominent conservative personality Ann Coulter.
    • Jewish Harvard students were asked to tweet their sins publicly before the start of Yom Kippur. Not many did.
    • The Church of England sought nominations for the next Archbishop of Canterbury from Twitter.
    • Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger asked a follower to pick up his new iPhone in exchange for buying the other person one.
    • At least one company’s using nonexistent tweets as testimonials in a billboard campaign.
    • A former Sony PR employee took the company to task over PlayStation marketing, claiming “no one has a Vita.” Ouch.
    • The hacked @HuffingtonPost account offered to restore followers’ virginity for the low, low price of $29.95.

    The week’s best new accounts: Neil Young signed up in 2009 but just now started tweeting. After a garbage collection schedule change caused anger in Edinburgh, Scotland, parody account @edinburghbinman gave an insider’s perspective on the kerfuffle. Also, say hello to Lost’s John Locke, Terry O’Quinn.

    Photo of the week: Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul shared a wonderful photo of kids dressed up as Jesse Pinkman and Mr. White. (@aaronpaul_8)


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    Through the course of its existence, Facebook has had to deal with issues concerning the privacy of its users.

    In a page entitled “Facebook Myths” the company makes a concerted effort to dispel any false notions people might have about how it handles their personal information—along with comical yet apparently legitimate questions like “Can people tell that I’ve looked at their timeline?”

    Below, we’ve compiled three common myths about the social network that pertain to how they manage their users’ privacy.

    1) Advertisers have access to your personal information.

    The first privacy-related issue mentioned in the frequently asked question page is how much access advertisers have to your private data. The answer? None. “Facebook’s ad targeting is done anonymously by our system,” they write, “without sharing personally identifiable information with advertisers.”

    Instead, advertisers decide which demographics they’re trying to go after and Facebook targets ads to those specific audiences without divulging your name, date of birth, what pages you like. You can rest assured that the local bakery doesn’t know your interests include cupcakes. That’s strictly between you and Facebook—which will handle showing you the ad whenever said bakery advertises on the platform entirely on its own.

    2) Facebook sells your personal information.

    The social network giant also states in no uncertain terms that it will never sell your information to anyone. Why would they? It’s their biggest asset.

    As stated on their recent quarterly filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, Facebook “generate[s] substantially all of [their] revenue from advertising.” If they made your data available to other parties, they’d be giving away their cash cow. It’s likely why the social network behemoth is looking to expand its search capability: to compete with Google, who also makes the bulk of their revenue via targeted ads.

    3) Sites that use Facebook plugins have access to your personal information.

    A lot of sites across the Internet utilize Facebook’s social plugins. The Daily Dot, for example, uses the Subscribe button on the home page and the ubiquitous Like Button on every single story.

    What data do sites get about you via these plugins? You guessed it. Nada.

    “Because they have given Facebook this space on their sites, they do not receive or interact with the information that is contained or transmitted there.”

    Confusing grammar aside, Facebook’s explanation states that sites which utilize the various plugins don’t get much about who Facebook’s users are beyond what they’ve publicly made available. The advantage of using these plugins isn’t getting a demographic breakdown. It’s to disseminate content to a much broader audience.

    Photograph via Dave Rutt/Flickr


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    In the court of Facebook, Adrian Ernest Bayley is already guilty of murder.

    More than 44,000 people have liked a page called Publicly hang Adrian Ernest Bayley. Another 400, meanwhile, are fans of Adrian Ernest Bayley is a dog, whose creator invites you to “post whatever you want about this filthy piece of shit.”

    Bayley, 41, is the lead suspect in the murder of 29-year-old Jillian Meagher, an Irish national living in Melbourne who was raped and killed early in the morning on Sep. 22. Facebook has angered Australian police by refusing take down those pages and four others, making social media a centerpiece in a case that has shocked and enthralled Australia.

    Police were initially delighted with the role Facebook and other social media platforms played in the case. After Meagher went missing on Sept. 22, more than 120,000 people joined a page dedicated to finding her.

    “Though social media’s been enormously helpful in this investigation, it’s also been very, very difficult,” Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said at a press conference.

    “We’ve all got a social responsibility,” he added. “Facebook is part of our community and I would have thought that [removing the pages] would have only been reasonable. We’ve got to remember that no matter how horrible this crime is, this gentleman has got to be afforded a fair trial. It’s not for Facebook pages or anyone else to be taking justice into their own hands.”

    Even Jillian’s brother, Tom Meagher, warned that “negative comments on social media may hurt the proceedings.”

    Facebook explicitly bans pornography, hate speech, threats, graphic violence, bullying, and spam. Its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, meanwhile, prohibits users from posting content or taking any action on Facebook “that infringes or violates someone else's rights or otherwise violates the law.”

    Removing pages certainly isn’t unprecedented. In August, the company removed a controversial page that supported two alleged cop killers in Philadelphia, accompanied by gruesome photos of the maimed and murdered police officers.

    When pressed by Australia’s ABC News, Facebook declined to comment on the specific case, though it did issue the following statement:

    "We take our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities very seriously and react quickly to remove reported content that violates our policies and also to restrict access to content in a country, where we are advised that it violates local law.”

    The pages may very well violate local law. In the United States, gag orders can only extend to people involved in a trial, but not the news media. Not so in Australia. The country’s contempt of court laws restricts media from publishing material that might influence an ongoing or forthcoming trial. The goal is to prevent potential jurors or others from being influenced by biased media—the so-called "trial by newspaper."

    But while Facebook waits to make a move, at least one of pages is voluntarily shutting its doors after lengthy and vicious debates in its comments sections.

    “I'm shutting this and the other page down,” wrote the anonymous creator of  Adrian Ernest Bayley is a dog. (It’s unclear which “other page” he or she is referring to.)

    “But for those who have soooo much faith in our judicial system just remember that this putrid piece of flesh that is the worst excuse for a human, is a repeat offender both violently and sexually, whether he is put behind bars or let back on the street he will be the one living in fear, looking over his shoulder for the rest of his short future.”

    A story in The Australian did not report any violent or sexual crimes in Bayley’s past, though it did note that he frequented prostitutes and had suffered an “emotionally and physically abusive childhood, and a violent and fractured relationship with his father for many years.”

    His real, off-Facebook trial begins in January.

    Photo via YouTube


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    Spending time at work looking at photos of cute animals might actually be good for business if a new Japanese study holds up to scrutiny.

    Researches at Hiroshima University recently conducted a series of tests to determine the effects of cute animal exposure on productivity and task completion in humans, and found them to be quite positive.

    Forty-eight college students were divided into two groups and asked to play a game similar to Milton Bradley's "Operation." At the end of the first round, 24 students were shown photos of baby animals, while the other 24 were shown photos of adult animals.

    Those students in the first group were found to be far more successful at picking pieces out of the patient's body the second time around than the students who were shown the "non-cute" photos.

    Another experiment consisted of dividing the students up into three groups, and asking them to count how many times a certain number appeared in a string of numbers. Once again, a group of students was shown photos of baby animals in between sessions, while another group was shown adult animals.

    This time, a third group was shown photos of "pleasant foods," including sushi and steak.

    The researchers found that students in the "cute photo" group outperformed those in the two other groups by a significant margin.

    In their paper, published in the most recent edition of the online journal PLoS ONE, the authors concluded that "kawaii things not only make us happier, but also affect our behavior," adding that "viewing cute things improves subsequent performance in tasks that require behavioral carefulness, possibly by narrowing the breadth of attentional focus."

    LiveScience breaks it down:

    Previous studies have shown that humans slow down their speech when talking to babies, and the Japanese researchers speculated that viewing the cute images may have had a similar effect - slowing the behavior of the students who saw the cute baby animal images and improving their accuracy in the game. In addition, the researchers suspect the baby-animal group got a boost in nurturing feelings, something that would likely benefit performance in the care-related task that involved helping someone (even if that someone was an anthropomorphic game board).

    Lead author Hiroshi Nittono, a cognitive psychologist, suggests offices might want to consider adding "cute objects" to workspaces in order "to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations."

    Somehow I don't think businesses need to worry too much about making sure their employees get their daily fix of cute things.

    By Neetzan Zimmermanphoto via Shutterstock


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