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Confession Ethics

March 18, 2014
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Published by the Center for Digital Ethics & Policy

Do you want to hear a secret? Can I confess something to you?

It’s a rare person who can turn down such an opportunity, the chance to hear a deep, dark and — one can only hope — excruciatingly intimate revelation.

Print publishers have capitalized on this aspect of human nature. Cosmopolitan magazine promises that “readers share their most shocking stories and steamiest secrets” on its “Cosmo Confession” page, and Seventeen’s regular feature “Traumarama” says, “You’ll laugh out loud (or cringe).” In a way, “Dear Abby” advice columns, where readers divulge personal problems under pseudonyms, are cut from the same cloth.

It’s no wonder, then, that the Internet has become a mecca for people who don’t want to keep their private thoughts to themselves.

Consider the PostSecret website, which exhibits anonymous secrets mailed on artsy homemade postcards. On March 9: “My mother only sleeps with married men. I’ve lost all respect for her.” “Telling people I’m an atheist is going to be WAY harder than coming out ever was!” and “I make both our lunches every day—But I only wash my apple!” Since 2005, the project has racked up millions of secrets, even more site visits, five books and speaking tours for its creator and curator, Frank Warren.

Despite some heavy secrets throughout the years — about suicide, abortion, betrayals, you name it — the project has avoided major controversy, and there’s no public evidence of lawsuits.

For a brief time, Warren opened a comments feature on the website, but he ultimately decided to disable it. He explained his reasoning in an interview with Mediabistro:

“Some of [the comments] were very harsh and judgmental, and I didn’t want people to feel like they couldn’t trust me with their secrets, that the place wouldn’t be safe any longer,” Warren said. A short-lived PostSecret app had the same fate, for the same reason.

Warren’s philosophy about comments is not universal. Especially when those pages reside on social networks, like Facebook, Twitter or Reddit, where comments are a defining part of the user experience.

Confession websites are popular, in particular, among college communities. A PostSecret could come from anyone in the world. But on a college confessions page, the scandalous disclosures come from people that share your location and experiences, people you might know. It’s an alluring premise.

Read more…

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‘The Heart of Robin Hood’ actually features a woman in tights

November 22, 2013
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Published in Metro

Director Gisli Örn Gardarsson gave us an unexpected synopsis when describing the American Repertory Theater’s latest show, “The Heart of Robin Hood.”

“In a nutshell, it’s a female heroic story,” says Gardarsson.

Despite the play’s title, the Robin Hood in this story doesn’t give back to the poor after he steals from the rich. Instead it’s Marion, a suppressed princess who has escaped from her castle, who wants to do good. But she has to dress up as a man to join Robin Hood and his gang of scoundrels.

“The castle is governed by the old ways. You don’t have a say in who you marry and how you behave. She wants to be free and roam with the scoundrels in the forest,” he explains.

The twist on just who the real hero (or heroine) is isn’t the only unique detail. “It kind of takes inspiration from Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night,’ says Gardarsson.

And the Shakespearean parallels go beyond a cross-dressing character. As in many of theBard’s works, this story blends a dark side with comedy.

“It’s like a Grimm fairy tale — people getting beheaded, tongues being ripped out — but it’s also very humorous,” explains Gardasson.

A.R.T. shows are known for their physical elements, and this one is no exception. The stage is transformed into a forest, and the actors fly through the trees using ropes and a giant ramp that’s almost 45 feet high.

Gardarsson is no stranger to such feats. “I did gymnastics for 15 years when I was younger,” he says. “So I come very much from that background. I also did ‘Metamorphosis’ [last season] at ArtsEmerson, and that was also very physical.” So you can bet that this “Robin Hood” is going to be action-packed.

“Anything you can do in a forest is done in this show,” says Gardarsson.

‘We Will Rock You’ brings the music of Queen to a live stage

November 5, 2013
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Published by Metro

We Will Rock You” is set 300 years in the future, when the only music the government allows is Computer Recorded Auto-tuned Pop (also known as C.R.A.P.). Then a group of bohemians discover a relic from the past: Queen.

“So a couple of young rebels try to save the world basically by finding rock and roll again,” sums up Ruby Lewis, who plays Scaramouche (name ring a bell?), one of those bohemians.

The government has attempted to eradicate individual thought—people don’t even have names, just assigned numbers to identify by. But that doesn’t jibe so well for Lewis’s character.

“She’s arrested for speaking her mind and singing her own stuff,” says Lewis, whose first song — her favorite — is “Somebody to Love.”

The show features 24 Queen songs. Some lyrics have been updated to fit into the modern-day world (for example, “Radio Ga Ga” mentions downloading music from the Internet). But the classics, like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Are The Champions,” stay true to the band’s spirit.

“Unlike other jukebox musicals, the songs are how you’re used to hearing them,” says Lewis. “They’re not condensed versions, they’re not sped up or slowed down.”

Lewis encourages audience members to take part in the shows “concert vibe.”

“Stand up and sing along,” she says. “Wave your arms, get caught up in the world and the music.”

Take this job … and post it.

October 18, 2013
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Published by the Center for Digital Ethics & Policy

On September 28, 2013, Marina Shifrin posted a video on YouTube called “An Interpretive Dance For My Boss Set To Kanye West’s Gone.” The video opens with a close-up of Shifrin’s face and a caption: “It’s 4:30 am and I am at work.” It ends with the words “I QUIT” superimposed over Shifrin dancing in front of a row of empty cubicles. Then she walks to the door, turns off the lights and the screen goes black: “I’m gone.”

Most of the one-minute, 45-second video features the former Next Media Animation staffer bobbing, shimmying and gyrating in a sound booth, a bathroom stall and in front of those cubicles, her employee ID badge swaying around her neck.

“For almost two years I’ve sacrificed my relationships, time and energy for this job,” she writes in the video. “And my boss only cares about quantity and how many views each video gets. So I figured I’d make ONE video of my own.”

Ironically, Shifrin’s unorthodox resignation has gone viral. In two weeks, it received more than 15.8 million views on YouTube — certainly enough to make most bosses happy.

The majority of viewers have responded positively. There are more than 93,000 “thumbs up” votes on YouTube, more than 23 times the number of “thumbs down” votes. A sampling of the 18,000 comments includes praises such as “What an awesome, creative, getcha way of quitting a job!” and “good for you!!”

Shifrin’s efforts garnered plenty of media coverage, too, and even earned her a job offer from Queen Latifah. On her talk show, Latifah asks Shifrin if she has any regrets.

“No, sometimes I think that you need to forcefully close one door in order for the other one to open a little easier,” explains the 25-year-old aspiring comedian. Her response was met by claps and whoops from the studio audience and an understanding smirk from Latifah.

Of course, not everyone has loved Shifrin’s video — quite a few YouTube commenters criticize her dance moves, for instance. In response to a story about the viral video, one reader writes, “Just another member of the lost generation without a backbone (not facing boss to actually deliver the news) and feeling entitled…”

Read more…

Theater Preview: ‘Kiss & Cry’s’ sleight of hand

October 10, 2013

Published by Metro

Belgian artists create a ballet of the hands in “Kiss & Cry.” Quite literally.

The dancers in the ArtsEmerson presented show use their hands alone to portray the characters in this unusual love story.

“It’s the story of an old woman who remembers the first time she fell in love,” explains filmmaker Jaco Dormael, who created the show with choreographer Michele Anne De Mey.

The woman was 12-years-old when she touched the hand of a boy on a crowded train.

“She doesn’t remember the name of the boy, but she remembers how it felt, his hand,” says Dormael. “All her life she’s been looking at the hands of the men in her life.”

The show follows the five great loves of the woman’s life, and incorporates elements of cinema and theater along with dance. The audience watches light and camera crewmembers set up miniature sets for the hands to perform on. The performance is then filmed live — nothing is recorded in advance.

“On stage, you see the making of the film. At the same time, you see the result projected on a screen,” says Dormael.

Creating a film with a set the size of a table, using furniture fit for a dollhouse, was a challenge at first.

“Then we realized with tiny little sets, we can make a sky, a desert, the sea,” he says. “Everything is possible.”

RIP Trolling

October 2, 2013
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Published by the Center for Digital Ethics & Policy

There are good reasons for turning on the comment feature of a website: It’s a place for users to engage with content. It promotes discussion and feedback. The comments are sometimes good for a laugh. And they indicate that people are actually visiting a website. But the merits are overshadowed when trolls enter these modern-day public spheres.

Stories on news sites, blog entries by novice writers and public pages on Facebook all succumb to this form of cyberbullying. Trolls are people who purposefully post provocative messages and images in the comment sections of websites to fuel arguments and provoke mayhem.

Sometimes these nasty notes cause little more than mildly hurt feelings and embarrassment. But a special class of Internet troll called a “RIP troll” elicits emotions much stronger.

This troll targets a type of website most would deem sacred — not a place for joking, let alone crude tormenting. It’s a type of website increasingly common in the digital age: one that memorializes the deceased.

Like the Westboro Baptist Church members who picket military funerals, or thieves who study obituaries for funeral information so they can rob families who are away from home, RIP trolls target people who are mourning their loved ones.

Read more…

‘Million Dollar Quartet’ brings Elvis, Cash, Perkins and Lewis to life

September 24, 2013
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Published in Metro

Tyler Hunter plays Elvis Presley in “Million Dollar Quartet” but he’s no dime store Elvis impersonator.

“I act like Elvis would have but I put my own little twist on it so it doesn’t seem so mimicked and copied,” explains Hunter. “These were real guys, normal buddies hanging out in the studio jamming. So you’ve got to make it real.”

Normal is a relative term when the “guys” in question are Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley. The musical revisits the winter of 1956, when the four rock ‘n’ roll stars came together for their first — and only — recording session.

“You have four iconic people: Carl Perkins who wrote ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and really helped revolutionize rock music. You’ve got Jerry Lewis who’s a ham, the funny guy, the wild one, the killer. Then you’ve got Johnny Cash, who’s playing in every house,” says Hunter.

And of course there’s Hunter’s role. Presley was only 21-years-old at the time that this true story takes place, and just getting into movies.

“He’s not the big, big famous Elvis Presley that we all know, but he’s an international singing sensation as well as a movie star,” says Hunter.

But the performer isn’t intimidated to fill such shoes, big or otherwise.

“At this point I’m pretty comfortable with the role,” say Hunter, who’s played Elvis for two years in various productions (and owns the jumpsuits to prove it). “It helps that before I ever did this, I was a huge Elvis fan.”