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Month: March 2016

‘Starving The Beast’: Documentary Reveals How Wall Street ‘Disrupted’ Public Education

Posted in Journalism, MintPress News, and SXSW

Is education a right and a public good, or is it a commodity from which corporations can profit?

“Starving The Beast,” a documentary which premiered March 13 at the SXSW Film festival, reveals the struggle between these two paradigms for higher education taking place across the country at publicly funded universities.

From the University of Texas at Austin to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, decades of budget cuts have resulted in skyrocketing tuition alongside a simultaneous decline in the quality of education. Now Wall Street is moving into the gaps created by a largely Republican-created budget crisis, from the increasing reliance on private student loans as public funding falls to schemes to allow the accreditation of more for-profit universities, a move championed by Sen. Marco Rubio during his 2016 electoral campaign.

Night Of The Slasher Makes Meta-Horror Personal (#SXSW Film Review)

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

A supernatural serial killer stalks a teenage girl after she smokes pot, drinks beer, dances half-naked and has casual sex.

It’s an image that’s moved beyond cliché and into the realm of “meta-horror,” when the genre comments on its own obsessions with slut-shaming and male power fantasies. Meta-horror may have reached its ultimate expression in Joss Whedon’s “Cabin In The Woods” (2012), which reimagines the tropes of horror films as a dark, Lovecraftian ritual that also implicates the viewer, wagging a finger at us for enjoying the gore and the terror quite so much.

Shant Hamassian’s 2015 short film “Night Of The Slasher” (2015) is also meta-horror, but it takes place on a more personal, even intimate scale. Jenelle (Lily Berlina, expressing a great deal with almost no words) works through a literal checklist of horror tropes to deliberately attract the killer. The scar on her neck tells us she’s encountered him before, and we soon realize she’s out for vengeance.

Jewish Activists Protest Israeli Rebranding Of Conflict At SXSW

Posted in Journalism, MintPress News, and SXSW

At least two dozen activists drummed, rapped, and danced as SXSW attendees streamed into the JW Marriott in downtown Austin, Texas, on Monday morning for a panel titled “Building The Perfect Country.”

Panelists included Ido Aharoni, the consul general of Israel in New York and one of the key minds behind “Brand Israel,” a campaign aimed at boosting the nation’s image abroad by adopting marketing techniques used by successful companies.

“Our brand was almost universally, is almost universally associated with conflict,” Aharoni said at the panel held during SXSW, the annual nine-day music, film and technology festival held here. He compared Israel to other countries like Turkey, which are perceived more favorably than Israel even though they’re also home to “geopolitical conflict” and human rights abuses.

Organized by the local chapter of Jewish Voice For Peace, the protesters outside the panel objected to the idea that a country based on occupation could be anything resembling perfection.

#SXSW: The Week So Far … From Polyamory To Pee-Wee

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

SXSW Interactive wrapped up on Tuesday, and after 5 days of chasing stories around the Convention Center and nearby hotels, my energy level just about ran out. I took Wednesday off from doing anything important other than writing, and spent Tuesday and Wednesday resting and catching up on my personal life, instead of partying or listening to music.

It’s all not very gonzo. What would Hunter do?

But I’m not Hunter Thompson, as trolls like to remind me on Twitter from time to time. I’ve accepted this fact, and rather than snorting some speed, as he would probably advise, I’ll stick to naps.

But, there’s three more days (and nights) of SXSW and I intend to make the most of them.

Can ‘Sousveillance’ Bring Down Police States?

Posted in Journalism, MintPress News, and SXSW

From the footage of Eric Garner’s death to YouTube videos of Israeli soldiers’ violence against Palestinians, recordings made by everyday people are providing powerful evidence against the actions of police states around the world.

One NGO is harnessing that power and using it against some of the world’s most repressive regimes and dangerous criminals. Videre Est Credere (Latin for “to see is to believe”) provides hidden cameras and specialized training to victims of war crimes and human rights abuses from Africa to Asia.

Oren Yakobovich, CEO of Videre, said the organization’s main goal is to force governments to “protect human rights, or take another kind of action to make people’s lives better. It doesn’t matter how they do it, whether it’s in court or changing legislation.”

SXSW Day 4: Protesting Israel, Legalizing Cannabis

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

I finally got a few solid hours of sleep last night, which is good since I was back downtown at 8:30am to attend a protest sponsored by Jewish Voice For Peace. They were targeting the panel “Building The Perfect Country,” which featured Israel’s general consul in New York, Ido Aharoni, among others.

Obviously, some folks felt like Israel has no business being on a panel with that name. Additionally, Aharoni is the leading mind behind the “Brand Israel” campaign, which seeks to replace Israel’s current image (“conflict! occupation! war crimes!”) with a white-washed alternative (“innovation! creativity! democracy!”).

The security — which was heavy! — gave me some serious stink eye when I went from the protest to the panel. I’ll be writing about both events for MintPress News.