Category Archives: Culture

Say bye-bye to Brooklyn Nine-Nine, for now?

With it being that time of the year, when television networks line up our beloved shows only to axe them in the back, there are times when even the brightest TV heroes cannot save themselves.

And the latest one to join the list of martyred television series is the cult favourite Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Fox lists falling ratings as the reason to cancel the show and to make more space on its schedule to bring in the newer crop of shows for the fall TV season.

But they surely have underestimated the power of its Fandom.

Outraged and hurt fans took to Twitter to express their betrayal while Dan Goor, the co-creator of the show, expressed his gratitude for all the fan support.

Support for the series poured in from all directions, including celebrities like Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeting: “I ONLY WATCH LIKE 4 THINGS. THIS IS ONE OF THE THINGS #RenewB99.”

The stars of the show too voiced their sadness over show’s cancellation and gratitude for running long and strong for five seasons.

The reason why this show is such a cult favourite can be attributed to the fact that it has been dealing with social issues like homophobia, gender representation, workplace dynamics with such kindness and without evoking inappropriate jokes to amuse its audience that it quickly seeped into the hearts of its fans. And the fact that at the heart of every episode, there is the sense of helping everyone and uplifting their spirits throughout all the drama and tension just seals the deal for its viewers.

It has successfully evoked a range of feelings, from acceptance when Rosa’s father offer his daughter this wholehearted apology: “I want you to know that I accept you for who you are, and I love you very, very much.”, to pain and uncertainty when Jake and Rosa gets prison sentence and we see for the first time the scared and vulnerable side of Rosa, to absolute joy when Jake finally proposes to Amy in the precinct via a championship-wrestling belt.

But all hope’s not lost. With networks like Hulu and Netflix gaining more and more popularity and focus of viewers, there are chances that Brooklyn Nine-Nine may be picked up by one of them, giving fans a thread of hope to hang onto. And hopefully in near future the viewers will see the return of their beloved show.

 

What is the Cannes film festival and why does it matter?

For decades, many have tuned in to watch stars walk the red carpet in the French Rivera in May for the biggest film festival. Cannes brings glitzy, glam, networking, and screenings to one place.

But most people, don’t know what Cannes is and why the festival is important.
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How do you pronounce “Cannes”?

Most people make the mistake of pronouncing it as “cahn” or “cahns.”

But it’s more or less like “can.”

With many French words, the trailing s is not pronounced. So, it’s not “cans” or “cahns”. It’s just like a can of beans.

How does the festival work?

A few dozen films are selected to show during the festival. More than often, from prestigious directors whose work has previously played at the Festival.

Twenty films premiere “in competition” to win the top Cannes prize; the Palme d’Or (“golden palm”). This is the highest prize awarded at Cannes and is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry.

Previous winners have included films such as Sex, Lies and Videotape; Pulp Ficition; and Apocalypse Now.

The festivals official programme is divided into several sections:

  • In competition: the twenty films competing for the Palme d’Or. Among this year’s competing films are Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Livre d’Image.
  • Un Certain Regard – Twenty films selected from cultures near and far, with an “original aim and aesthetic.” It is likely these films have limited theatrical distribution and are seeking international organisation.
  • Out of Competition: films that are not competing for the main prize but re projected in the Théâtre Lumière. The film committee just wants to recognise these films. Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is due to premiere out of competition.
  • Cinéfondation: fifteen short and medium-length films from students currently enrolled in film school.
  • There are Midnight Screening, Special Screenings, Tributes and other events, playing films during the festival.

Why is Cannes so important?
The festival is considered the most prestigious in the world, mainly because of its exclusivity. The festival also has a long history of premiering some of the greatest films of all time and has even launched the careers of many prominent filmmakers.

It has propelled the success of many films during award season and months later; The Artist is just one of many that show that.

Beyond the recognition, Cannes affects which films make it in front of audiences. Some of the most influential people in the film industry attend, from distributors to financiers and publicists. Filmmakers can network with the hope to find funding and distributors for their films.

Who gets to go to Cannes?
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Cannes is an industry-only festival. Credentials are given to directors, producers, actors, publicists, distributors and journalists, who have applied for a badge. Attendees have to flash their badge to get into all screenings and events.

The festival also plays a selection of films for the public on the beach, every night at 9 o’clock.

Cannes has and will retain its position at the top of the festival hierarchy for years to come.

Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino may be Arctic Monkeys’ biggest gamble yet

In an era where nobody’s buying albums, Arctic Monkeys have bucked the trend, but could their complacency backfire?

Back in 2005 the Sheffield band had kept to the traditional DIY ethos of handing out CDs to anyone who would take them. Soon though eager fans started uploading their tracks to indie message boards, and the band became the face of a new era – one where anybody could become Glastonbury headliners as long as they had a four track and a Myspace account.

As word spread about the internet being a revolutionary tool for new bands, the Monkeys were beating older bands at their own game at the same time.

Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not remains the fastest selling debut album by a band in the UK, and after the release of AM in 2013, they became the first band on an independent label to release five consecutive number one albums.

They survived the rise of piracy, the decline of indie rock, and then the rise of streaming. Unlike any other of their peers, however, they continued to shift albums. By almost every metric, no other band this side of the millenium comes close in terms of size to the scrawny-turned-sleek Sheffield group.

That’s why their approach to album number six comes as a surprise.

This morning the band released Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino with little fanfare. Save for a few posters and a 42 second teaser video, there was no other indication of what to expect. No singles or radio sessions; it was just released.

While the Monkeys and their label, Domino, knew that the album would not go unnoticed, by introducing a stark new style it risked alienating their traditional fanbase with no warning.

The guitars are largely out, and pianos have come in; Alex Turner is no longer mouthing off about High Green, but crooning about gentrification on the moon. Compare it to Whatever People Say I Am…, and it’s not unreasonable to think these could be separate bands entirely. 

So do fans think that it’s a way of protecting the album as a collective piece, or was a move to sell records without having to show this alienating change of sound?

We went out to ask some people whether they’d be willing to pay for an album just on the artist’s reputation alone.

Just as we found, the reaction from Arctic Monkeys fans on social media has been split.
There was a consistency that they’re decision not to release any singles was a fear of a backlash, and by saving it to the release they already had album and ticket sales in the bank.
Some fans of their earlier, more frenetic material thought the focus on lyricism and piano playing proved lacklustre.

Although there is some balance and some, including Radio 1 DJ Greg James, think that Tranquility Base showcases the strength of the band’s evolution.

Once the hype and disappointment fades, the album will probably fall somewhere between grand and gaudy.
Tranquility Base is almost infuriatingly dense. The album’s first real hook to grab onto doesn’t come until the sixth track, Four out of Five.
It requires attention unlike other Arctic Monkeys records, but Alex Turner is still the same writer. He’s still funny and clever, willing to turn a phrase from nowhere, but they’re now hidden in long, winding soliloquies.
For those who want festival anthems, this album is undoubtedly be a disappointment.
But it’s wrong to suggest this is Turner starting to coast, in many ways this is the most complicated album the band have released since Humbug.
Whether this controversial change of tact will affect their popularity in the long term remains to be seen.
But one thing is for sure; Arctic Monkeys’ silence has got everybody talking.

Review: Childish Gambino grips American reality in new song

Bob Dylan ‘Masters of war’ has been the first to be declared best protest song of our time, in 2014 by a Rolling Stones poll. Now, it’s Donald Glover turn.
‘This is America”, the latest track of the American-born actor and singer better known as Childish Gambino, has reached 73 million views in less than a week from its release.

To fully appreciate it I have been on the internet trying to dismantle the enigmas surrounding the song.

I was looking for details, insightful pieces of journalism, instead all I got was listicles, mere churnalism. On the web, you can find a pile-up of tweets, reactions and “Watch the satirical Childish Gambino’s latest music video”. No interpretation drawn, nor conclusion reached. This type of journalism is so empty, almost an insult to the core value of the job. But we all know the pressure of the newsroom, stuffing webpages with viral videos to reach the daily traffic target.

Whomever has been struggling, like myself, to get their head around ‘This is America’, has definitely noticed the sad reality. Cultural criticism in its traditional form is dying. Indeed, it has been replace by something, by far, way scarier: the internet phenomenon of the “fandom”.
People want to consume art, rather than consider it.
Fandom provides criticism, although of a different form. Fans are obsessive, have got their opinions and often these are pretty harsh. They know what they are talking about and have a closer bond with the creator, thanks to the era of technology, and so the critic has been replace by the co-creator, whom view is every bit as artistically worthy as the subject.
This scenario is definitely more diverse and entertaining, but there are losses of impartiality and independence. The “fandom” offers love, hate, strategically written nerdy reviews and nothing in between. So the future of traditional criticism is possibly evolving into crowd-sourcing and sharing comments.

At this point, I’m still left with my doubts.
Why has this song been released now? Why did it take so long for a mastermind to put into lyrics and choreography the Americans common feeling of oppression and imprisonment? Will this song affect, in any way, how Trump plays with politics?

The trap gospel is a piece of slick art that rebuff the DNA of the protest music and constructs it into an oddly graceful gust of torture, death and slavery.
Gambino sings a story of impossible escape. It’s a blood-soaked video of blank salvation, but here it is where the artifice begins to show its brilliant traces. The lyrics are so soul-moving that one wants to keep inspecting their dark interiors, waiting for the next “truth of regeneration” to sprout.

‘This is America’ is successful in every way. Its meaning belongs to every listener differently ,according to their belief and views, breaking down into unlimited implications.
But is it a coincidence that the song has been dropped right after Trump has stated that London hospitals are like a war zones, due to the high rate of knife crime?
Is Gambino trying to prove the President how wrongly powerful guns are as mass attacks tools?
Did we all forget the dreadful events happened at the release of a trigger, in USA during the past few months?
The general feeling is that Trump is trying to extend is “security protocols” overseas, declaring that:

“more guns on the streets in the hands of good guys are more efficient than weapons in the hans of bad guys”. (Phrase widely popular among guns rights advocates.)

If closely analysed, London has seen 58 victims of knife crimes since the start of 2018, while 58 people have been shot dead in Las Vegas, during a country concert in 2017, in the space of 10 minutes. During the Las Vegas accident, police has not been able to identify the perpetrator right away, making it more difficult to prove that armed good people can stop bad ones.
Childish’s Gambino video explores the twin spectacles of entertainment and ultraviolence as the motto of Trump’s America, shifting in between registers of afro rhythms and church chorus.
This makes of the song such an unorthodox production and whether saturated with a social or political rant, songs of resistance and salvation typically envision an antagonist or a threat, in this case Trump has been exposed in the lines. But Gambino doesn’t offer no solution. No paths forward, only a spiral of question.
Next, we hope to see a British artist creating a masterpiece with May’s response to dubious Trump’s statements.

 

 

Should Pride be a party or a protest?

Just weeks before the London Pride march, organisers of Sheffield Pride have come under fire after describing their event as a “march of celebration, not protest”.

In an email to participants, then widely circulated across social media, organisers said that banners and placards would have to be viewed by the Parade Manager prior to the event, and ‘offensive’ signs would not be allowed on the march. 

It’s the vague sentiment of ‘offensive’ followed by a note that the event is “a march of celebration not protest” that has angered many, who believe the event should continue from its inherently political roots.

Luke Renwick, the president of Sheffield Hallam Student Union, noted on social media the organisers had also banned political groups from joining the march – although this has now been removed from their website. 

Organisers initially defended their policy, with event manager Darren Hopkinson telling BBC Sheffield: “We understand there is a protest element but the main priority for our event is to celebrate”. 

Later, they released a statement saying that “we got it wrong”, and they were acting on “criticism we received after last years’ parade and event”.

But ahead of a summer of Pride events it has rekindled a debate about whether Pride has lost its purpose. 

Pride in London, the organisers of the event in the capital, have repeatedly fended off criticism of associations with big corporations. They argue that it’s a necessary measure to fund the event that has to pay increasing costs to the council and police. 

Last year, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wrote for The Guardian that “Pride has been dumbed down. For many people, it is now mostly a gigantic street party. Big corporations see it as a PR opportunity to fete LGBT consumers. The ideals of LGBT equality are barely visible.”

This attitude has led to a string of fringe events growing, most notably UK Black Pride, where politics and social change remains at the forefront. In February, Stonewall announced they’d be pulling out of London’s biggest event to instead divert their resources to UK Black Pride instead.

Despite the criticism, more than 25,000 people will attend London’s Pride march on July 7, and it remains the biggest event of its kind.

But questions remain about whether the LGBT+ community expect better from London – be it the Mayor’s office, Westminster Council or Pride in London – when hate crime has increased by 78% in the last five years (via Stonewall).

 

Sexual assault scandals in the #MeToo era

Sexual assault scandals have been invading the headlines, even more since the Harvey Weinstein case was brought to light by the New York Times and The New Yorker last October.

This case inspired the #MeToo movement where sexual assault victims from all over the world have come forward with their experiences, thus uncovering more cases, specially related to institutions with a high reputation, just like Weinstein’s film production company. The list below illustrates some of the ones that have faced consequences, ranging from all aspects of public life.

1. The Weinstein Company

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Harvey Weinstein, Chairman, The Weinstein Company. Image: Thomas Hawk on Flickr

The company filed for bankruptcy on 19 March following dozens of allegations against Harvey Weinstein accusing him of sexual harassment, assault and rape. He is currently under investigation in both the US and the UK.

2. Oxfam

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An Oxfam member of staff helps to carry one family’s newly received non-food items home in UN House, Juba. Credit: Anita Kattakuzhy/Oxfam (from Wikimedia Commons)

The British charity is assumed to have hidden sexual abuse allegations against staff from victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The scandal highlighted the fact that big charities are increasingly more worried about branding and earnings than their actual mission.

3. Swedish Academy/Nobel Foundation

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Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Sara Danius announces the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Swedish Academy will not be awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2018 following allegations of sexual harassment against Jean-Claude Arnault, who has close ties with the Academy. It is the first time since World War II that the price is being withheld.

4. US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 

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Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headquarters, 8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has expelled Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski, along with Mr. Weinstein (last year). Cosby was convicted of sexual assault last month and Polanski has admitted statutory rape of a 13-year old girl in 1977.

5. Pamplona’s San Fermin Festival

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Seconds before the beginning of the San Fermín Festival in Pamplona (Spain). Town hall Square. Everybody holds his red handkerchief above his head until a firework is exploded at 12 pm; they then put it around the neck. Image: Wikimedia Commons

A Spanish court cleared five men, known as the ‘wolf pack’, of the gang rape of a teenager at the San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona in 2016. They were convicted on 26 April of sexual abuse, a much lesser crime. Protests have taken over the country following the decision.

6. Vatican

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Catechesis at the Palacio De Deportes with The Mass given by Cardinal George Pell Archbishop of Sydney for English speaking pilgrims.
 © Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk on Flickr

Cardinal George Pell is facing sexual assault charges in Australia. This is part of the long-established sex abuse scandal in the church, making Pell the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged.

 

Cycling in London: how is it going?

Cover photo by Roman Koester on Unsplash.

“It’s as easy as riding a bike” is a common phrase used to say that, well, something is easy. But just how easy is it to do it in London, one of the most congested cities in the world? Transport for London’s 2017 Analysis estimated that 730,000 journeys are made daily with bicycles in the capital.

The Mayor of London recently announced a commitment of an average of £169m per year over the next five years to improve London’s cycling conditions, contributing to its target of 70 per cent of Londoners living within 400m of the cycle network by 2041.

Cyclists and campaign groups, however, want more than that. Yes, appropriate infrastructure is needed, but that also requires a transition of established societal and institutional ways. A study done by the Portland State University showed that changing cycling infrastructure won’t change culture.

Having blue lanes segregated from cars and other motorised vehicles won’t do anything if people don’t know how to use them. Bruce Lynn, from the London Cycling Campaign, says the infrastructure is there but people won’t use it.

There are bigger issues TfL and the Mayor of London have to consider to make cycling a possibility for every Londoner. Today, there is a common idea of the typical cyclist in London: young white men, environmentally-friendly and mostly liberal. This is supported by various studies that argue people who don’t identify as any of the above, feel less inclined to try cycling.

Who is cycling today

Who is cycling in london today_

Graphics by author

In TfL’s 2016 report, the fact that people are highly against changing their routines was assumed to be one of the main reasons they don’t try it. Their 2015 Attitudes towards cycling report also showed that safety concerns, fear of collisions, too much traffic, bad weather, lack of time, health reasons and lack of confidence and accessibility are some of the most common deterrents that put Londoners off using bikes.

Just last Saturday, around 4,000 riders took the streets of London for the #BikesUpKnivesDown demonstration led by the #BikeStormz movement to raise awareness to the rise of knife crime and murder rates in the city. They rode from London Bridge to Oxford Street in one of the biggest youth-led rides against knife crime, showing that the use of bikes has turned their lives around.

Current cycling network

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Central London’s cycling paths mapped by Route Plan Roll.

The current cycling network is made up of quietways and cycle superhighways for the most part. TfL defines them as “cycle routes running from outer London into and across central London. They give you safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city and could be your best and quickest way to get to work.”

Existing ones go from the City to Tottenham, Stratford to Aldgate, Barking to Tower Gateway, Oval to Pimlico, Merton to the City, and Wandsworth to Westminster. The east-west and north-south ones are the newest additions with proposed ones to go from Tower Bridge to Greenwich, Kensington Olympia to Brentford, and Swiss Cottage to the West End.

 

 

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Graphic by author

 

Safety

Safety concerns is probably what discourages people from riding the most. A study done recently by Cambridge academics found that changes in behaviour and policies is what is needed to keep the system moving, and tackle these concerns. A change in work hours, in the number of cycleways and docking stations, and in how people cycle together are factors that will contribute to that.

Another study done by Injury Prevention found that the more number of cyclists and pedestrians, the less likely motorists are to collide with them. This is partly because they are more visible, but also because the so called “safety in numbers” makes riders feel more comfortable.

14.6 per cent of casualties in Greater London while travelling were of cyclists in 2016, according to TfL. However, only eight, out of 4,424, were fatal, a decrease of 11 per cent from the year before. It certainly shows how, compared to the car, the transport mode responsible for 39.3 per cent of the casualties, cycling is less likely to get people injured. The study by Cambridge academics, however, also points out that an increase in cycling traffic also means an increased risk for cycle coalitions.

Not every rider has the same experience levels, specially in urban area conditions. ‘Bikeability’ is something most of the campaign groups advocate for, because they know that is where it starts. The London Cycling Campaign offers free ‘bikeability’ training to anyone interested and the have regular group sessions. Everyone, not only cyclists, should know how to share a public road.

How is London doing compared to the rest of the world?

 

Not good. It isn’t even on the top 20 of bike-friendly cities in the world. Infrastructure, safety and diversity (or lack of) are some of the reasons why the British capital is not considered in the 2017 Copenhagenize Design Company Index.

Tokyo, Munich, Helsinki and Oslo are new to the list because they have worked to fix issues that didn’t allow their cycling levels to grow. Closing the center to private cars, bike sharing systems, growth of network, parking facilities, and the creation of the Cycling Embassy (Tokio) and the Cycling Federation (Helsinki) are some of the things that are on place in this cities to improve the levels of cycling urbanism.

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As much as it is common thinking that more and better infrastructure will make London a top bike-friendly city, if Londoners don’t learn (or don’t want to learn) about ‘bikeability’ and cycling urbanism, the city won’t see any major changes in the years to come. The Mayor of London is committed to increase the use of bicycles in the city as it has been demonstrated that not only will it help with air pollution, but will also provide better quality public spaces.

 

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