Samuel L. Jackson Signs On As First Amazon Alexa Celebrity Voice

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Samuel L. Jackson at the premiere "Spider-Man Far From Home" (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

Samuel L. Jackson and other celebrities will lend their voices to Amazon’s Alexa devices in a new feature that will be available as a 99-cent upgrade, the tech giant announced at a major product reveal in Seattle.

Other celebrities’ voices will be added next year. The company has recently amped up its affiliations with A-listers in its marketing efforts for Alexa, including Super Bowl ads featuring the likes of Harrison Ford, Cardi B and Anthony Hopkins.

Jackson “can tell you jokes, let you know if it’s raining, set timers and alarms, play music and more – all with a bit of his own personality,” according to the company’s official blog post. The company plans two versions of his voice — “explicit and non-explicit.”

As voice competition ramps up among Amazon, Google and Apple, the push for Alexa dominated the Amazon event. The company also announced updates to its Echo Show video-enabled devices, as well as a $59 version of the Echo Dot featuring a clock and designed for bedstands. Amazon also took the wraps off new Echo units such as Studio, Glow, Flex and Bose-powered wireless earbuds called (what else?) Echo Buds. The $200 Studio is the first high-end Echo model, featuring Dolby Atmos.

There are now 100 million devices equipped with Echo speakers, which Amazon first rolled out five years ago.

Continue on to Deadline to read the complete article.

11-year-old ballerina dances into history as 1st black lead in NYC Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’

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Charlotte Nebres smiling holding a large Nutcracker

Four years ago, Misty Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history. Now, an 11-year-old girl is also breaking barriers as the star of the New York City Ballet’s holiday production of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker.”

In a story first reported by The New York Times, Charlotte Nebres, a student at the School of American Ballet, danced her way into ballet history as New York City Ballet’s first black Marie, the young heroine of a show that dates back to 1954.

The annual production also includes a diverse cast of other young leads this season, including Tanner Quirk, Marie’s Prince in the ballet, who is half-Chinese; Sophia Thomopoulos, the ballet’s second casting of Marie, who is half-Korean and half-Greek; and Kai Misra-Stone, Sophia’s Prince, who is half-South Asian.

“It’s pretty amazing to be not only representing S.A.B., but also representing all of our cultures,” Nebres told “The New York Times.” “There might be a little boy or girl in the audience seeing that and saying, ‘Hey, I can do that too.'”

Charlotte, who was just 6 years old when Copeland became the first female African American principal at American Ballet Theater, recalled being inspired when she saw Copeland perform for the first time.

“I saw her perform and she was just so inspiring and so beautiful,” she told The New York Times. “When I saw someone who looked like me on stage, I thought, ‘That’s amazing.’ She was representing me and all the people like me.”

Charlotte Nebres in Ballet outfit holding on to ballet bar with her coachCharlotte, whose mother’s family is from Trinidad while her father’s side of the family is from the Philippines, is becoming a trailblazer herself with the role of Marie.

For Charlotte’s mother, Danielle Nebres, the experience for her daughter is a meaningful one, because she was also a dancer growing up.

Nebres, who described Charlotte as quiet and artistic, said, “You don’t know what people are seeing in your child, and they are definitely seeing something in her.”

Although Charlotte is making waves being cast as Marie, the 11-year-old is just enjoying the moment and doing what she loves most: dancing.

Continue on to ABC News to read the complete article.

Latin superstar Juanes’ enduring impact through music and philanthropy

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Juanes is on stage singing and playing guitar

By Jovane Marie

When Colombian superstar Juanes takes the stage, the atmosphere shifts. His influence is apparent, from the fanatic cheers of the audience as they sing along word-for-word to the permanent fixture of phones poised to capture each moment. With more than 15 million albums sold worldwide, to say he is a legend is undebatable.

This was the exact scene this past September at L’ATTITUDE, a business-focused annual conference, which focuses on how U.S. Latinos are fueling American economic growth. The artist was in attendance not only to serenade the crowd with a moving rendition of “La Camisa Negra” (a favorite from his ground-breaking album “Mi Sangre”) but also to share his thoughts on how Latinos are dominating mainstream music and the importance of their contributions.

It’s a perspective Juanes is more than qualified to speak on.

With a career spanning longer than three decades, 26 awarded Grammys and Latin Grammys combined, a history of philanthropic endeavors, and his naming last June as the 2019 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, Juanes has firmly positioned himself as one of Latin music’s leading global ambassadors and a committed voice for advocacy and inclusion.

It may seem a massive undertaking to be such an influential artist—maintaining a long-standing industry presence, constantly expanding your creative artistry, supporting new artists, and managing philanthropic efforts—but Juanes insists that only one thing is necessary to make it so.

“Si quieres ser artista, sigue tu corazón,” he told the L’ATTITUDE crowd. “If you want to be an artist, stick to your heart.”

Follow the Music

Considering Juanes’ background, it comes as no surprise that he ended up so fully enraptured by the magic of music. Raised in his native Colombia, he began playing the piano when he was only 2 years old, and at 7 learned the guitar from his father and brothers.

Juanes and Camillo Cabello perform on stage
Juanes and Camila Cabello perform onstage during The Latin Recording Academy’s Person of The Year Gala. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

“I started to play guitar and sing because of my family, really—my brothers, sisters and parents all loved music,” he told NPR. “They were always singing folk music, so those beginning years were filled with sambas and chacareras and vallenatos and tangos.”

By the time his teenage years rolled around, however, his tastes had changed, leading to the start of a career with a musical sound far removed from the folk songs of his youth. At age 17, along with friends André García, Fernando “Toby” Tobón and José David Lopera, he formed the rock band Ekhymosis (Greek for “bruise”).

Inspired by the music of Metallica, the band aimed to “create

Colombian rock” through their thrash and heavy metal rhythms. Their first demo spoke to a simultaneous effort to describe the troubled environment of their hometown in Medellín, marking the beginning of a consistent pattern of speaking out against injustice and violence through socially conscious songs.

At the time, Medellín, influenced by the reign of Pablo Escobar and civil war, had the highest homicide rate in the world. Juanes was not spared from the effects of this harrowing environment, losing a cousin to violence in the early 90s. The experience encouraged him to try to use his gift of music to effect change.

“I realized that music has the power to bring people together, to change things,” he said. “That has been my mission.”

By the time Juanes made the decision to go solo in 1998—ten years after the band’s formation— the award-winning group had released eight albums.

“I just felt like I was missing something—that I needed to go back to my roots, my essence,” Juanes said of his solo journey. “And that’s what I’ve done ever since. I try to mix both the folk side and the rock side to create a contemporary sound.”

The formula has certainly paid off…in spades.

Juanes holds his big donation check for his Fundacion Mi Sangre foundation
Juanes poses for a photo with a donation made to his foundation, Fundacion Mi Sangre, at Hard Rock Cafe – Times Square in New York City.(Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Released in 2000, his first solo album, “Fíjate Bien,” earned him two Latin Grammy Awards, while his second, “Un Día Normal” (released in 2002), was certified multi-platinum in multiple countries across Latin America.

It was his third album, however—”Mi Sangre”—that positioned him as an international force and cemented him as a global ambassador for the Latin music genre. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart, produced three consecutive number one singles, was certified Gold, Platinum, or Multi-platinum in 14 countries, and won three Latin Grammy Awards.

Since the release of “Mi Sangre” in 2004, Juanes has released four more albums, including 2017’s “Mis Planes Son Amarte,” a full visual concept album featuring the artist’s first song in English.

His eighth solo album, set for release in November 2019, has already produced a Latin Grammy- nominated single in “La Plata”—a Colombian folkloric tune mixed with pop reggaeton that is close to the singer’s heart.

“This song is light and happy…I’m very excited,” he gushed about the single, which features emerging Columbian trap artist Lalo Ebratt of the collective Trapical Minds. “It has to do with Colombia, and with my roots, and with who I am.”

The Juanes Effect

Juanes’ worldwide appeal is undeniable. He has performed everywhere from the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo to Sesame Street, and has been recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People.

And while many Latin artists eventually “cross-over” to record English language albums in an effort to expand their audiences, he waited almost 30 years to record “Goodbye for Now,” his first English song. The move was deliberate and based, he said, on a desire to respect his fan base while adapting to the changing musical landscape.

“Singing in Spanish is very important because it is the language in

Karla Martinez, John Cena, Juanes and Ana Patricia Gamez are seen on the set of ‘Despierta America’ to promote the film ‘Ferdinand’in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/WireImage)

which I think and feel,” he explained. “But I am also conscious of the fact that the world and the way we communicate is changing. I do love Anglo music, and now that I’m a little bit more familiar with the language, I feel like it’s more honest for me to do it.”

It may have taken him some time to release a track in English, but Juanes has effortlessly maintained a presence in the mainstream American music scene, nabbing several groundbreaking firsts in the process of building his musical empire.

His performances at the 84th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (2010), The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2014), The TODAY Show Plaza concert series (2014), and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (2017) marked the first time any of these platforms had featured a performing artist singing exclusively in Spanish. And, in 2015, he performed “Juntos”—the first Spanish song featured in over a decade at the Grammys.

For Juanes, these historic performances speak to the ability of music to transcend language.

“It’s really a magical feeling,” he explained. “People come to our shows or listen to these performances, and they respect the fact that we sing in Spanish. They are paying attention to the melodies and the arrangement and the music itself, and it’s a beautiful gift. It’s just the magic of music.”

A Voice for Change

Growing up a witness to prevalent violence in his hometown of Medellín had a profound effect on Juanes that has reverberated beyond his lyrics into a passion for philanthropy.

In 2006, he created the Mi Sangre Foundation in response to Colombia’s needs in the treatment of landmine victims. Under the umbrella of psychosocial support, peace education, and peace building project programs, the organization “helps children, teenagers, and youth heal wounds of the soul by creating safe environments and strengthening social fabrics while enabling the participation of families, the community, and the educational sector.” The venture, which has provided support for thousands of landmine victims, is a labor of the heart.

Recording artist Juanes performs onstage during MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Fleetwood Mac
Recording artist Juanes performs onstage during MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Fleetwood Mac at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

“The name Mi Sangre [My Blood] is inspired by the same sentiment as my album of the same name—it’s about my children, my children’s children, my land, my roots. It’s what’s important to me,” Juanes said of the foundation. “When I heard firsthand the stories of people who had been directly affected moved me to the point that I said, ‘I want to do something.’”

The artist also co-founded the Paz Sin Fronteras (Peace Without Borders) effort, a series of free outdoor concerts aimed at uniting people across borders and promoting non-violent conflict resolution.

His efforts have earned him a multitude of humanitarian awards, appointments, and recognition, including Colombia’s National Peace Prize, a position as a Goodwill Ambassador for nonprofit organization United for Colombia, France’s highest cultural honor for social activism (L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres), and a namesake recreational park in Medellín, which provides rehabilitation space for people with disabilities.

For Juanes, however, the recognition isn’t the end goal. In his eyes, it’s all about making a difference.

“I do these things because they matter for me and to me,” he explained. “I often think about what we as a people are doing here in this world and why we are here. And what I know for sure is that we are not alone…we need to help each other.”

A Continuing Legacy

Juanes’ legacy of artistic innovation, support for emerging artists, and humanitarian recently manifested into yet another recognition—one reserved for the most culturally impactful Latin musicians.

Last June, the Latin Recording Academy announced that as part of its milestone 20th anniversary, the singer, composer, musician, and philanthropist would be named the 2019 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year.

Juanes performs at the 2nd Annual L'Attitude Conference
Juanes performs at the 2nd Annual L’Attitude Conference – LatiNExt Live on September 26, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)

Bestowed upon musicians of Ibero American heritage in acknowledgement of their artistic achievements in the Latin music industry, fellowship, and philanthropic efforts, past honorees have included Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Shakira, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana.

“Juanes is young, but legendary, an artist who has inspired us through his amazing music for many years and—while doing so—he vigorously campaigned for political, social, and positive change around the world,” said Gabriel Abaroa Jr., president/CEO of The Latin Recording Academy. “His leadership and his philanthropic work, in addition to his positive messages that transcend music, speak volumes about his many contributions to the community, and we are truly honored to recognize him as this year’s Latin Academy Person of the Year.”

The designation is just the latest addition to the multi-talented artist’s ever-growing legacy, and a reaffirmation that he is fulfilling his destiny.

“I’m doing what I believe I was brought to do—to create music that raises awareness, renews hearts, and generates change,” Juanes shared. “And I hope I have many years left to connect through art, to play my guitar, and to continue chasing the sun.”

See the states where designers make the most money for their work

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man drawing a design on paper with a pencil

Many designers make a very respectable living. According to a new survey of over 17,000 designers across the globe, conducted by the digital networking platform Dribbble earlier this year, product designers are doing quite well in particular.

U.S.-based product designers working on physical and digital products report making an average salary of $103,000 a year. Not bad for passing on the law degree and medical license and (hopefully) never learning how to code!

That figure doesn’t appear to be the result of a few whopping salaries that threw averages out of whack, either. In fact, 73% of product designers report making salaries of $75,000 or more. But there’s a catch: the highest-paid designers live in California, where 40% of those surveyed reported making $100,000 or more a year. Figures are similar in New York and Washington state (most likely the Seattle area, where Amazon and Microsoft live). In other words, designers who make six figures are often living in a location that mandates a six-figure minimum to get by. So success in the field is relative.

Other interesting findings were that a lot of designers are side-hustling on top of full-time office jobs. Nearly half of respondents reported working on-site at a job each day. But still, 75% of all respondents disclosed that they freelanced in off hours—a finding that’s in line with another recent survey on design work. Put differently, that means that only one out of four designers is getting the creative or financial fulfillment in their career to actually call it a day at the end of a day. It’s good for the design industry that so much extra work exists, but it’s perhaps worrisome that designers are taking it at the expense of time off for their health and well-being.

One last notable tidbit was regarding education. Globally, 42% of all designers are self-taught, while only about a third report picking up their talents through a formal education. But in the U.S., half of designers reported going to school to learn the trade. Then, specifically looking at UX designers who responded to the survey, a whopping 25% have their master’s degree. That means the people designing apps, websites, and interfaces are a highly educated bunch. And it implies that breaking into the Valley as a UX designer could require not just a stunning portfolio but a serious personal investment in education.

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Calling Native American Student Artists! American Indian College Fund, Pendleton Host Design Contest

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Pendleton Design Contest Promo

Pendleton Woolen Mills, the acclaimed lifestyle brand headquartered in Portland, Oregon, creates dazzling blankets as part of Pendleton’s American Indian College Fund collection, of which a portion of the proceeds provides scholarships for Native American students.

To give voice to rising Native artists while honoring the richness of Native arts and cultures, the American Indian College Fund and Pendleton are announcing the Tribal College Blanket Design Contest. Open to tribal college students, the contest challenges students to express their culture and identity through original artistic designs to be incorporated into the next tribal college student designed blanket to be featured and sold in the blanket collection to give back to the Native community by helping to support American Indian College Fund scholarships.

Contest participants must be currently enrolled in one of the 35 American Indian Higher Education Consortium tribal colleges and universities (TCUs). Textile design experience is not necessary to enter. Only current TCU students are eligible to participate. Students cannot submit more than two designs. All submissions must be received by 11:59pm MST on February 15, 2020.

A committee comprised of Native American artists and College Fund and Pendleton staff will select the winning blanket designs. Prizes include the following:

  • Grand Prize winners: $2,000 cash, a $5,000 scholarship, and six of the winning blankets.
  • Second Place winners: $500 cash and a $2,500 scholarship.
  • Third Place winners: $250 cash and a $1,500 scholarship.

For submission guidelines and applications, please visit the American Indian College Fund’s web site at https://collegefund.org/pendletoncontest.

About the American Indian College Fund—Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 30 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $7.72 million in scholarships to 3,900 American Indian students in 2018-19, with nearly 137,000 scholarships and community support totaling over $208 million since its inception. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit collegefund.org.

From the Smithsonian to the Kitchen: African American Art is Transforming the Home Decor Business

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Collage of Black Art

Just a few decades ago, Black art was hard to come by in mainstream markets. Artists were largely only viewed at African American museums and at niche galleries.

In 1995, two young African American males in South Los Angeles set out to bridge the gap between Black art collectors and the everyday consumer. Shades of Color fuses Black art into its product line to celebrate one of America’s most influential cultures on household products including home décor, shower curtains, floor mats and kitchen aprons.

As of 2017, the home decor industry was worth $582 billion, and is projected to increase to $741 billion by 2023, according to PR Newswire. There has been an increase in home ownership which has tremendously impacted the home décor market, as stated on the Allied Market Research website.

While the home décor market is constantly expanding, there are still seldom companies that honor African American art on their products. Shades of Color’s partnership with African American artists is proving to be a solution that brings art into the homes of the consumers that truly appreciate it.

“We work with artists to mass produce their art on products which exponentially increases exposure to their craft,” says President, Adrian Woods. “Our artists are an extension of our family and are relatable from the girlfriends of Cidne Wallace to the strong Black fathers by Frank Morrison to the more contemporary styles of Larry Poncho Brown. Our goal is to highlight these artists and be a driving force in ethnic home décor.”

Black art is a reflection of American culture, and Shades of Color’s community is making that art more accessible. All types of consumers have essentially become art collectors without even knowing it. The company’s direct to consumer website features African American artists, a vast catalog of products and global conversations around culture and current affairs. With its ties to community involvement the company is also supporting its greater network. Schools, churches and community groups have earned well over $2 million through the company’s fifteen year fundraising program that is open to everyone.

What began in the mid-90’s as strictly a calendar company is now a leader in an ethnic niche market selling through mass retailers, organizations, main street gift shops and quaint Afrocentric stores across the country. The flagship calendar line preserves history and brings facts, accomplishments and current milestones to light in a time when typical classrooms across the country are still neglecting to include Black history. The entire product line is infused with positive aspirations and imagery that embody this very important aspect of Americana.

“It is touching to hear the reactions,” says Production Manager and Marketing Director, Janine Robinson. “Across social media followers comment on what it feels like to walk into their bathroom, for example, and see a reflection of themselves on a 70” x 70” panel that fills the room. It’s not rare to get several comments saying, ‘That’s me!’ Not only does the product fill the room literally, the art and statements fill and ignite the spirit too. That is the part that makes it all worth it.” #UpliftandInspire

About Shades of Color
Founded in 1995, Shades of Color, LLC is a small Black-owned business producing high quality calendars, stationery, kitchenware, home décor, bags and gifts. It licenses and commissions Black art from renowned African American artists. The company manufactures and distributes its own collections to a global audience. Learn more about their products at www.ShadesGifts.com. Learn more about their Home Décor Collection at www.shadescalendars.com/product-category/homedecor

Continue on to Black News to read the complete article.

Enter the San Diego Latino Film Festival International Poster Competition today!

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San Diego Latino Film Festival Poster Design Contest

The San Diego Latino Film Festival (SDLFF) invites *design professionals, artists, and students* from all over the world to produce a commemorative poster design that will represent the history and legacy of the SDLFF.

SDLFF was born out of a desire to take a stand against the status-quo of cinema, to challenge the reigning and ever-present stereotypes about the Latino experience in movies, and to give Latino filmmakers the power of telling and sharing their stories, first-hand, about what it means to be Latino.

We invite you and all other visionary designers to be a part of our history by submitting your project to consideration. The commemorative poster design shall celebrate our core values and our passion for the Latino culture.

Your design will receive national and international exposure, including but not limited to: the cover of the Official SDLFF 2020 Program book, print ads, TV commercials, social media posts, ads, and web banners. Better yet, the winning artwork will receive a prize of $1,000.00 dollars! 

Continue here for the submission details and guidelines.

HBO’s Watchmen Premiere: All The Big References To The Original Comic Book

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Comic book characters pictured from Watchmen

One of the most revered books out there, comic or otherwise, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen is the inspirational touchstone for HBO’s newest TV drama from The Leftovers’ Damon Lindelof.

The Watchmen TV show is a current-day sequel to the original tale, though taking place in a different location and centering on mostly different characters. Regardless of the differences, a plethora of comic-friendly references and easter eggs were infused throughout Watchmen’s premiere as plot-setting connective tissue.

Below is a list of all the big Watchmen comic references that showed up in the TV show’s premiere episode, titled “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice.” From follow-up weirdness to the main story’s shock ending to the appearance of a certain blue superhero, Watchmen was a smorgasbord of “Wait, did you catch that?” moments that deserve quick rewinds. And without further ado, here’s a mostly sequential order of the biggest comic-inspired highlights. (Check here if you need a new copy).

The Blood On The Boy’s Face

Once the orphaned boy wakes up in the field, following that harrowing opening, he has a splotch of blood on his head that definitely feels like a reference to the blood on The Comedian’s button that kicks off Watchmen and serves as one of its most identifiable symbols. This particular reference comes up very obviously at the end of the episode, but it’s worth pointing out that Damon Lindelof also found a way to work a bloodied face into the start of his story. Metaphors abound.

Mirrored Storytelling

The millionth reason Watchmen remains a celebrated and respected work is because Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were so meticulous about filling the comics with reflected and repeated art, dialogue and situations; examples include Chapter 5’s palindromic nature, Doctor Manhattan’s photograph obsession, the somewhat prescient Black Freighter text and much more.

Beyond all of the Rorschach masks that don’t move, HBO’s Watchmen already made some use of this narrative style in its opening episode. The biggest example, of course, would be the episode starting off with a celebratory film strip of a heroic black man roping up a foul white dude, and then ending with a potentially wicked black man looking very much like he hung a white lawman from a tree. To top it off, the guy in the wheelchair was holding the same note as the kid from the beginning, indicating that this is either a near-impossibly old version of that kid, or perhaps his son. Who’s the hero here?

Electric Cars

Within the alternate world of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, it would appear that all vehicles are powered electrically, with zero reliance on gasoline for fuel. Though the TV premiere doesn’t take viewers into an assortment of planes, trains and automobiles, it looks like the world help steady with electric car power since the main narrative’s timeline, without the need to revert back to cruder forms.

Rorschach Mask And Journal

Yes, this is one of the most obvious entries on this list, and it won’t be the last one. It’s still worth mentioning that the Seventh Cavalry was founded on the basis of Rorschach’s worldview, and the white supremacist cult uses his signature mask as a unifying symbol (and disguise). Is his journal their Bible, or more of a manifesto?
Masks As “Faces”

Throughout Watchmen’s comic story, Rorschach refers to his mask only as his “face,” particularly whenever he gets arrested and has it taken from him. On the Watchmen TV series, Don Johnson’s Judd tells Tim Blake Nelson’s Looking Glass, “Pull your face down,” in reference to the latter slipping his reflective mask back on. It’s interesting that Damon Lindelof has the authorities using that wording, as opposed to only the Seventh Cavalry adopting it.

Doctor Manhattan Appears

Watchmen’s mystery-laden build-up kept fans in the dark on how many original characters would appear on the HBO show, and thankfully, the pilot doesn’t get too far before dropping some concrete proof that Doctor Manhattan is still on Mars, and has been for the past 30+ years.

Doctor Manhattan showed up on a news program via satellite footage, in which he could be seen destroying a large and elaborate castle he’d created. (Find out more about that from my interview with director and EP Nicole Kassell.) In general, the situation echoed the blue being’s Mars structure in the comic, although in the TV show, Manhattan’s castle appeared to be a mock-up of the dwelling that Jeremy Irons’ character (almost definitely Adrian Veidt) lives in. Very interesting.

Vietnam, Robert Redford And More

It would have been strange had HBO’s Watchmen changed things up here, but it was confirmed early on that Vietnam is still the 51st state in the U.S., and the American flag represents that with an alternate look. Regina King’s Angela was born outside of Saigon, which is a somewhat deeper connection to the country than the brutal scene in the source material with The Comedian and Doctor Manhattan.

Robert Redford (currently sorta retired in our world) is still the President of the U.S. in Watchmen’s universe after a slew of successive terms, and his predecessor Richard Nixon is part of Mouth Rushmore’s quartet. Redford has his detractors for sure, earning him the name “Sundance-in-Chief.”

Smiley Faces

As mentioned already, The smiley face button is an iconic symbol within Watchmen’s pages, with The Comedian’s yellow button echoed in a variety of ways. The same goes for HBO’s Watchmen, of course. Beyond a few arguable examples, the most overt visual smiley reference occurred when Regina King’s Angela showed her class how to make moon cakes. With the camera below a glass mixing bowl, Angela cracked a bunch of eggs, and after the yolks initially resembled a yellow Rorschach design, they quickly settled into the smiley face layout. Notice that “bloodied eye,” too.

Clocks

The Doomsday Clock is another one of Watchmen’s central visual anchors, and the TV show picks up where the comic book left off. Nine times out of ten, if a clock appears on the screen, it’s going to be set between 11:00 and 12:00, in reference to the atomic age catastrophe monitor. In the school, for instance, It looked as if the clock was somewhere around 11:25 a.m. Everyone should be probably be worried when we start seeing times much closer to 12:00.

It’s also no coincidence that the Seventh Cavalry uses adopted a clock’s sounds as its troubling chant: “Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.” (Though I do wonder why maybe-Veidt’s pocketwatch didn’t follow suit.)

Squids Are Everywhere

Watchmen’s comic book conclusion remains bizarrely surreal all these years later, and Damon Lindelof addresses the Veidt’s squid catastrophe in a big and mysterious way. Though it was one gigantic squid creature that Veidt transported to New York, the TV show’s characters dealt with a temporary rain storm, only with tiny living squids serving as the raindrops.

A squid storms seems like one of the most hilariously disturbing events that could happen in any given day, but Watchmen’s characters are clearly used to it. Angela is quick to get out and wipe the windshield, and there are city cleaning vehicles that were created specifically for removing squids from the streets. But how did things get to this point?

The Minutemen

Within the Watchmen mythos, the first team of vigilante heroes was called the Minutemen, which is with whom The Comedian made a name for himself, both as a hero and as a rapist. (The first versions of Nite Owl and Silk Spectre were also involved.) Much controversy swirled around the various Minutemen members, and within HBO’s Watchmen, those more sordid stories are being showcased through the dramatized TV anthology American Hero Story, a distinctly different AHS than the one airing on FX.

Dirigibles

One of the more curiously unexplained details within Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen is the pronounced use of skybound dirigibles, often with ads emblazoned. The transportation method made an appearance in HBO’s Watchmen, too, promoting the American Hero Story series.

Continue on to Cinema Blend to read the complete article.

Maggie’s World 075: Dressing Up

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costume sensations wonder woman and harley quinn are pictured in a comic book

By Maggie Thompson

In October, variety stores fill with a wide assortment of fantastic get-ups, both for kids and for adults. But throughout the year, comics events feature a vast array of costumes on display, worn by both kids and adults.

That year-round pop culture feature is relatively recent, mind you. Though science fiction conventions included costume competitions over the decades, “hall costumes” were not the norm. Might it have been comics and similar pop culture conventions that introduced the tradition of cosplay throughout a show’s duration? (The portmanteau word “cosplay” has become the accepted term for “costume play.”)

In any case, as Batman, Spider-Man, and Wonder Woman outfits hang on store racks before Halloween, their presence sparks thoughts of comics character garb in general—including whys and hows.

Simple to Complex
In the Golden Age, crime-fighting characters didn’t have to get super-fancy. Even Denny Colt didn’t need to wear a domino mask and live in a cemetery (though that certainly set him apart); he could have just worn a business suit and snap-brim fedora most of the time.

But he was part of the whole “identity” aspect of comics adventures—a feature shared by good guys and bad—that caught the eye. It was a tradition that had existed long before comics: the idea that ordinary folks could interact with fantastic characters who were often in disguise. Such pop-culture figures as the Count of Monte Cristo (1844, Alexandre Dumas), Scarlet Pimpernel (1903, Baroness Orczy), and Zorro (1919, Johnston McCulley) expanded on the tradition, some in costume, some not.

But the whole hanging-around-in-costume gambit to beat the baddies, solve the mysteries, help the helpless, and/or save the endangered? In fact, today, we have many protectors whose clothing identifies such roles to the public: police, soldiers, and firefighters among them. What they wear lets us know the ways in which they help us.

But in some fiction (see Pimpernel and Zorro), there’s an added aspect of hiding identity: High-schooler Peter Parker can fit in; crime-fighting Spider-Man stands (and swings) out.

But Also …

In addition to hiding identity, the costume can be an identity in itself.

Whether in the Golden Age, the Silver Age, or these days, when a bunch of characters are shown together (whether chatting or fighting), readers can tell, for example, Hulk from Thing and Superman from Batman.

When a story is told in pictures, costumes clarify that sort of identification. The Lone Ranger was created in 1933 for audio storytelling; when artists began to picture him, he soon donned a domino mask, but exactly what he wore varied. In the 1938 Republic serial, his mask wasn’t the simple domino known to later fans, but—what with pulps, comic strips, and comic books—his familiar mask and costume soon evolved. And then we knew who he was, whether or not he was calling his horse Silver.

Readers can spot such characters in whatever comics panels they inhabit. Heck, readers can even identify the same character as he or she exists in different eras. You know the heroes’ time period from what they wear. I have a set of three “Unemployed Philosophers Guild” licensed cups from 2015 decorated with costume evolution through the years: one each for Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman.

Those cups reveal another aspect of costumes: Whatever the necessities of storytelling may be, costumes—and changes thereof—can also bring in licensing cash.

Again, look around stores in October. And look at the kids at your front door, as they celebrate Halloween by wearing what they’ve bought in those stores. You validate the success of their choices when you identify their super-identities because they’re wearing licensed outfits.

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Stranger Things Renewed For Season 4 As Netflix Makes Overall Deal With The Duffer Brothers

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The Stranger Things Cast pose together for a picture

Netflix has renewed the worldwide hit series Stranger Things for a fourth season and signed series creators and showrunners The Duffer Brothers to a multi-year film and series overall deal.

“The Duffer Brothers have captivated viewers around the world with Stranger Things and we’re thrilled to expand our relationship with them to bring their vivid imaginations to other film and series projects our members will love,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix.

“We can’t wait to see what The Duffer Brothers have in store when they step outside the world of The Upside Down.”

“We are absolutely thrilled to continue our relationship with Netflix. Ted Sarandos, Cindy Holland, Brian Wright, and Matt Thunell took a huge chance on us and our show — and forever changed our lives. From our first pitch meeting to the release of Stranger Things 3, the entire team at Netflix has been nothing short of sensational, providing us with the kind of support, guidance, and creative freedom we always dreamed about.

We can’t wait to tell many more stories together — beginning, of course, with a return trip to Hawkins!”

View the the Stranger Things 4 announcement video

About The Series:

Stranger Things is a Netflix Original Series created by The Duffer Brothers and produced by Monkey Massacre Productions & 21 Laps Entertainment. The Duffer Brothers serve as executive producers on the series alongside Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen of 21 Laps Entertainment and Iain Paterson.

About The Duffer Brothers:

The twin brothers were raised in Durham, North Carolina and began making films in the third grade using the Hi8 camcorder they received as a gift from their parents. They went on to attend Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, graduating in 2007 with degrees in film production.

After graduating, the Duffer Brothers wrote and directed several short films, attracting the attention of both Warner Bros., which acquired their script for the post-apocalyptic horror film Hidden, and filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, who hired them as writers for multiple episodes of the Fox series Wayward Pines.

Building on their growing success, the Duffer Brothers pitched their idea for Stranger Things, an homage to 1980s genre films. The series was picked up by Netflix and premiered in the summer of 2016 to critical-acclaim and went on to become a global phenomenon, with Matt and Ross at the helm as writers, directors and showrunners.

Stranger Things has garnered over 50 awards nominations, including those from the Emmys, the Golden Globes, the Grammys, SAG, DGA, WGA, BAFTA, the Art Directors Guild and the People’s Choice Awards, among many others.

About Netflix:

Netflix is the world’s leading internet entertainment service with over 151 million paid memberships in over 190 countries enjoying TV series, documentaries and feature films across a wide variety of genres and languages. Members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on any internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments.

Rapper Residente partners with scientists to create music with brain patterns

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Rapper Residente sitting on couch dresed in black and baseball cap

Grammy-winning rapper Residente has some new collaborators on his upcoming album: scientists. The Puerto Rican performer said he studied intensely with professors at Yale University and New York University to read brain patterns in worms, mice, monkeys, fruit flies and even hitmaker Bad Bunny to create his second solo project.

“(The album is) going to be about everything that I have inside of my head … because of that I kept brainstorming and I said, ‘Oh I have to study my brain, and then I have to study other people’s brains, and then I have to study animals’ brains,'” he said.

Daniel Alfonso Colón-Ramos, an associate professor of neuroscience at Yale, said Residente spent days at the school doing research.

“We were joking that we should give him a diploma,” said Colón-Ramos.

On campus, they used electroencephalogram (EEG) tests on worms to track and record brain wave patterns.

“Without harming the animals we can actually see as the animal is thinking, as it’s moving, as it’s exploring its environment, we can see individual cells talking into each other. It turns out when these cells, when these neurons talk to each other they’re using rhythms to communicate — we call it rhythms of activity. But, at the end of the day, those rhythms can be turned into music,” Colón-Ramos said.

The untitled album will be released in November. Residente, born René Juan Pérez Joglar, worked with Suzanne Dikker, a senior research scientist in NYU’s Department of Psychology, to use EEG tests on himself and Bad Bunny to produce the album’s first single, “Bellacoso.”

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