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The Porn Business Isnt Anything Like You Think It Is

Midway through the second season of Silicon Valley, the HBO series that so skillfully spoofs the Bay Area tech scene, the plot turns to porn.

Inside the offices of Pied Piper, the fictional startup at the heart of the show, a shaggy-haired coder hacks into a rival company. The rival, he discovers, has landed a $15 million contract with a porn outfit called Intersite, also fictional, agreeing to build software that will compress Intersite’s videos and send them across the ‘net. Pied Piper’s CEO, Richard Hendricks, is bemused. “I don’t understand,” he says. “How does Intersite have all this money?”

“It’s pornography,” says the guy with the highfalutin facial hair.

“Adult content has driven more important tech adoption than anything,” says another colleague. “The first fiction ever published on a printing press was an erotic tale. And from there: super 8 film, Polaroid, home video, digital, video on demand—”

“—credit card verification systems, Snapchat—” adds a third.

“Pornography accounts for 37 percent of all Internet traffic.”

“Thirty-eightwhen I’m on it,” says the guy with the highfalutin facial hair.

In many ways, the exchange is typical of the show. It’s good for multiple laughs, particularly if you’re wise to the shamelessly eccentric ways of the modern tech world. Punchline aside, the big laugh is that nod to Snapchat, a mainstream private-messaging-and-video-chat app whose status as a porn service is, shall we say, unofficial. But Pied Piper’s porn encounter is a rare case where Silicon Valley gets things wrong. Typically, the parody rings so very true. In this case, it doesn’t.

‘The thing about the adult industry today is that … it’s a very low-margin business.’Chris O’Connell, Mikandi

In the popular imagination, the eternaltrope is that the porn industry drives the adoption of new technology; that it accounts for some astronomically large portion of all Internet traffic; and, yes, that it generates equally enormous sums of money for all the faceless people who run its operations. We picture these people as sleazy Southern Californians wearing pinkie rings and polyester. Or, if we’ve come to realize that the pinkie-ring caricaturemakes absolutely no sense in the age of the Internet, we see them as ruthlessly clever businesspeople with a sixth sense for where the big money lies. That’s the stereotype Silicon Valleyembraces. Later in the episode, when Hendricks turns up at an adult industry conference, we encounter an army of porn execs dressed like bankers.

But it isn’t like that at all.

Some of it may have been true in years past. But no longer. A colleague of mine calls this a meso-idea, an idea that has ceased to be true but that people continue to repeat, ad infinitum, as if it still was. With the rise of mobile devices and platforms from the likes of Apple and Google, not to mention the proliferation of free videos on YouTube-like porn sites, the adult industryis in a bind. Money is hard to come by, and as the industry struggles to find new revenue streams,it’s facing extra competition from mainstream social media. Its very identity is being stolen as theworld evolves both technologically and culturally.

It’s a world where Playboy is going PG-13—in print and online—because it can’t compete with the Internet at large. Mobile and social media platforms have pulled us away from the openness of the worldwide web and into walled gardens, squeezing the avenues of distribution for porn, co-opting its audience (at least in part), and forcing outfits like Playboy to become more “mainstream.” The larger porn industry is headed in the same direction, careening away from the stereotypes held by journalists and pundits and pop culturelike Silicon Valley. “That’s obviously a fictional adult company—because I don’t know a single one that would pay $15 million for compression software,” quips Chris O’Connell, who helps run a real adult company called Mikandi. “The thing about the adult industry today is that … it’s a very low-margin business.”

Mikandi operates the world’s largest porn app store. When I talked to the publisher of XBIZ, the leading adult business news organization, he called it “the future of the porn industry.” And in some ways, it is. But that future isn’t what the popular imagination expects.

O’Connell, Mikandi’s 29-year-old chief architect, lives in Tucson, Arizona, and he runs the company with Jesse Adams and Jen McEwen, the young Seattle couple who launched the store back in 2009, providing an alternative to the Android and iPhone app stores that forbid adult content. Apple also bars Mikandi itself from iPhones, and the only way to use it on an Android phone is to download it manually through a web browser—the same browser that serves up a seemingly endless stream of free pornography.

That said, Mikandi aims to offer stuff you can’t get elsewhere. A smartphone app does video and animation much better than a browser, and the store serves up carefully crafted stuff like hand-drawn hentai—aka Japanese porn animation. Over the last three years, the word “hentai” accounted for more Mikandi searches than the word “free.” The premium apps carry a price tag, and the company takes a cut whenever anyone buys one.

But the audience is relatively small. About 2.5 million people are registered with the Mikandi store, with about 345,000 visiting every three months. All of which means: O’Connell, Adams, and McEwen pull in yearly salaries somewhere in the low six figures, after paying “competitive” wages to a handful of coders in Seattle and Eastern Europe. “None of us own a yacht,” O’Connell says. Or as McEwen puts it: “You can’t understand the obstacles that are in our way.”

‘The Perfect Storm’

She doesnt mean obstacles of morality or law. Yes, many people frown on porn, calling it exploitative and debasing. But many others just see it as a part of life—a big part of life. There’s an enormous audience for porn, and whatever it signifies, whatever emotions it stirs in critics, this audience isnt going away. McEwen means economic obstacles, business obstacles, technical obstacles.

It wasn’t always this way. In the early aughts, online porn was ridiculously lucrative. Colin Rowntree, a porn producer, director, distributor, and member of the Adult Video News Hall of Fame, was a just mid-level player, and in those days, he and his wife, Angie, earned millions each year. But at the end of the decade, just about everything changed. Apple introduced the iPhone, which moved so much of our digital lives onto mobile devices whileofficially banning pornography in its App Store. Google pushed porn to the fringes of its search engine. And as The Economist and Buzzfeed have described, an army of “Tube sites”—essentially Youtube knockoffswith names likeYouporn and Pornhub—began offering a smorgasbord of online porn for free, much of it pirated, making it far more difficult for pornographers and distributorsto make money. All this happened as the worldwide economy tanked.

“It was the perfect storm,” says Rowntree. “People no longer wanted to pull out their credit cards. But they said: ‘Oh, there’s this thing called YouPorn. It may be grained and shitty, but at least I can masturbate.’”

The adult industry sought new avenues, including porn app stores, porn search engines like Rowntree’s Boodigo, and other workarounds, as well as “live cams,” where people pay to watch and interact with an adult performer in real time. That’s pretty much what strippers and porn stars have offered over Snapchat. But this too has its limits. One of the kings of live cams, Kink.com, the company the operates out of a castle-like former armory in San Francisco’s Mission District, has also seen revenues decline in recent years. Snapchat now works to shut down accounts dedicated to pornography.


Jen McEwen, Chris O’Connell and Jesse Adams. Annie Marie Musselman for WIRED

Certainly, some people will pay for a better experience than they can get on a Tube site. Todd Glider is the CEO of CMP Group, whose video service, Badoink, has found another loophole in the smartphone market—-it offers a video streaming tool that’s ostensibly content-neutral but can be used for porn—and he says the company pulls in $55 million a year in revenues. But the best content is often pirated and offered for free, much like Hollywood blockbusters and best-selling albums. The difference is that Hollywood has the political andeconomic power to suppress pirated content—and push official content through mainstream services. The porn biz can issue DMCA takedown notices and threaten legal action like anyone else, but it doesn’t have the clout to enforce the notices on a wide scale—or make anyone care that it’s being ripped off.

“The adult industry isn’t able to enforce its intellectual property protection,” says Kate Darling, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab who explored the economics of the adult industry in the 2013 study What Drives IP without IP? A Study of the Online Adult Entertainment Industry. “It’s not that much different from others industries—except that policy makers don’t really look at the adult industry and aren’t interested in helping the adult industry.”

Meanwhile, with the rise of Netflix and YouTube and so many other mainstream video services—including Facebook and Twitter—porn is no longer the dominant form of online video. It’s hard to tell how much porn streams across the ‘net—no reliable operation tracks this, including Sandvine, the primary source for internet traffic research—but it doesn’t account for 37 percent of all traffic. It’s not even close. Mikandi declines to discuss its traffic. But a better barometer is the Pornhub Network, which now spans several of the major Tube sites. Pornhub says its network receives about 100 million visits a day, and at least on part of the network, the average visit lasts about nine minutes. If you extrapolate, that’s somewhere in the range of 450 million hours of viewing a month. Meanwhile, Netflix serves 60 million subscribers, and these subscribers watch over 3.3 billion hours of programming a month (10 billion a quarter). Youtube claims hundreds of millions of hours of viewing daily.

“What happens is: someone comes up with a stat [about porn traffic] and everyone repeats it, but it’s not necessarily true,” Pornhub vice president Corey Price says. “If you just look at YouTube’s numbers, they’re astounding.”

The corollary is that, with the rising power of companies like Apple and Google and Facebook, the adult industry doesn’t drive new technology. In many respects, it doesn’t even have access to new technology. The big tech companies behind the big platforms control not only the gateway services (the iPhone app store, Google Search, the Facebook social network) but the gateway devices (the iPhone, Android phones, Google Chromecast, the Amazon Fire TV, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset). And for the most part, they’ve shut porn out. Besides, these giants now drive new technology faster than services like Mikandi or Pornhub ever could.

Porn distributors have become the imitators, not the innovators. This summer, Pornhub introduced a for-pay service, an alternative to its ad-driven free porn sites. In a press release, the company called it “the Netflix of porn.” When I talk to Price, he compares it to Spotify. And remember: the Tubes sites have spent the last decade mimicking Youtube. “We’ve innovated in some areas,” Price says. “But the adult industry being the leader of technology? If it was ever true, it isn’t true today.”

Silicon Valley doesn’t even get the clothes right. The reality is that people from porn companies wear whatever they want at conferences—a lot like people from other tech companies. “People who work in the adult industry are like people who work for other startups,” says one industry veteran. “But they have an edge. They have a certain countercultural attitude.” They’re a lot like people from other tech companies in so many ways. They just deal in a different type of online content. And even the content isn’t as different as you might think.

This Is What the Porn Industry Looks Like

Back in 1998, in his preternaturally entertaining expos of the porn business, “Big Red Son,” which detailed his visit to an industry mega-conference, David Foster Wallace observed a world populated by people who wore bad toupees and pinkie rings and used the word class “as a noun to mean refinement.” “All the clichs,” he said, “are true.”

They wouldn’t stay true for long. The Internet would soon remake the industry. It became less about producers and directors in Southern California, and more about people who put stuff on the ‘net. Old-school producers and directors are still around, but they’ve been superseded by the people who deliver the porn, and these people have moved into production as well. Twenty years later, almost none of Wallace’s cliches are true. In fact, not even the clichs that replaced those clichs are true. Nowadays, the porn industry looks nothing like those guys in bad toupees—and nothing like the steely-eyed execs who show up in Silicon Valley. It looks like Chris O’Connell.

The big adult business-to-business conference is called Internext, and it’s held at the Hard Rock Hotel, just off the Las Vegas strip. On the first day of this year’s show, O’Connell turned up in a blue mohair and wool suit, with a red tie and matching handkerchief. As he walked down the hall that Saturday night, past the framed guitars, the signed Led Zeppelin photos, and the freestanding, poster-sized porn-tech ads, he carried a lit Dominican cigar in one hand, and two smartphones in the other. The second phone is unlocked and rooted, so he can test new software code.

This is pretty much what he always looks like—though, if it’s cold, he might add a waistcoat, an overcoat, and a black fur felt fedora-like hat fashioned by a haberdasher in Romania. And on a Sunday morning, he might relax in a rugby shirt. But whatever he wears, he doesn’t wear it with irony. “I’m not a hipster,” O’Connell says. And he’s not. He’s a registered Republican. He’s an engineer who quotes Adam Smith. He’s a shareholder in a porn company who carries a commercial pilot’s license. Hes neither a ruthless businessmen in a suit, nor a coder in a hoodie. Hes a coder in a suit with a bit more color to it. He’s a guy with his own tastes—in clothes, in politics, in technology, in sex.

He lives in Arizona because he likes the politics, including the gun laws. Like many others in the porn business, he sits at the libertarian end of the spectrum. Free speech and free guns. He also lives in Arizona because that’s where he went to grad school. After three years of liberal arts at Middlebury in Vermont and a few more years in the Silicon Valley startup world, he studied astronomy at the University of Arizona, working with the Large Binocular Telescope and contributing to academic papers in publications like The Astrophysical Journal and The Astronomical Society of the Pacific. At one point, to make some extra money, he helped build some websites, and some of them were adult sites. Mikandi was a next step. The world was going mobile, and the likes of Apple wouldn’t allow porn apps. He thought it should. But he also liked the idea of, in his own way, rebuilding what Apple had built. He still does. “It’s a very hard thing to do,” he says.

As a metaphor, O’Connell works on multiple levels. He talks not like some smarmy San Fernando Valley opportunist or one of the porn industry automatons in Silicon Valley, but like a software engineer enthralled with things like the HHVM virtual machine, the Cloudfare content distribution network, and other really geeky stuff. After all, that’s what he is. He doesn’t just use tech. He builds it. And he does this under the aegis of a company whose Seattle offices, on the first floor of a nondescript building with no doorman, sit in the shadow of the glass towers that house Amazon, one of the big companies squeezing the porn industry. Plus, he’s the guy who put porn on Google Glass.

The Steve Jobs Effect

Jesse Adams and Jen McEwen launched Mikandi in the fall of 2009 after spending two years in China bootstrapping a business that made vibrating condom rings and other sex toys. At first, the Mikandi app store wasn’t much of a store. “We launched the day after Thanksgiving,” Adams says, “with no apps.” But it caught O’Connell’s eye. He had spent the last six month building a similar store, just so he could get one of his own apps onto phones, and he asked Adams and McEwen if they could combine forces. “They had the marketing,” he says, “and I had the technology.”


Jen McEwen. Annie Marie Musselman for WIRED

Before long, the store also caught the eye of Steve Jobs. That spring, the Apple founder and tech world patron saint unveiled the latest incarnation of the world’s most influential smartphone—the iPhone 4—and afterwards, he took questions from the press. At one point, a reporter asked if Apple would ever let people install software on the iPhone without the company’s explicit approval, and in response, Jobs pointed to Android. Google let people install almost anything on Android phones—if they ventured outside the official Android app store.

“You know, there’s a porn store for Android,” Jobs said, referring to Mikandi, warning that this store delivered porn apps without discrimination. “Anyone can download them. You can. Your kids can. That’s just not a place we want to go.”

It was another reminder that the Internet had changed in the age of the smartphone, that many devices no longer offered unfettered access to whatever the world cared to send across the Internet. But that bit of Jobsian self-righteousness also carried some untended consequences. Though Jobs didn’t mention it by name, about 10,000 people downloaded Mikandi onto their Android phones over the next 12 hours—ten times more than the usual—and traffic to the store promptly tripled.

And yet, all these years later, Mikandi remains a small business. O’Connell loves what he does. So do Adams and McEwen. And their business is successful. But it’s small. That’s because a porn startup can’t raise large amounts of money like other startups. And because their store has been pushed to the edge of the Android world. And because so much porn is available for free from the tube sites and other sources. “The adult industry has a very large content library, with, to use one of the buzzwords of the Internet, a very long tail,” O’Connell says. “You have so few viewers for each piece of content.” But nowadays, those aren’t the only forces keeping the company from the enormous bucks.

Ironically, O’Connell says, a company like Mikandi is also in a bind because so much free porn—or porn-like stuff—is now available through social media, from people posting stuff that isn’t necessarily for financial gain. Facebook bans adult content. And other social sites have done much the same. But not all of them. Twitter puts pop-up warnings over porn, but you can still get to it. Tinder isn’t all that different from an adult dating app. Snapchat cracks down on accounts dedicated to porn, but it is, by definition, a service for trading private pictures and videos. If you can get private pictures and videos through Snapchat, you aren’t as interested in porn from porn companies.

In some respects, the porn industry has been replaced by millions of people with ready access to camera tech, posting stuff to the Internet. That’s just the way the modern Internet works. “Adult,” O’Connell says, “is getting rolled into everything else.”

‘It’s Chaos. It’s Fragmented. It’s Broken. It’s Blocked’

As he built Mikandi amidst this new world order, O’Connell didn’t pay $15 million for video software. He and his team built it themselves. That’s pretty much the way it works in the porn business. Part of it, O’Connell says, is that with all that free porn available across the `net, industry margins are much too thin for that kind of spending. But even if a company did pay $15 million for that kind of tech, it isn’t likely to pay a mainstream startup a la Pied Piper.

The Silicon Valley bit about the industry driving the adoption of credit card verification systems takes on a new meaning when you consider that many credit card services now refuse to work with adult operations (in the early years, fraud, inordinate chargebacks, and other abuses were rampant). Many mainstream technology vendors take much the same stance, including companies that build email services and, yes, video engines.

“For adult companies, it’s chaos. It’s fragmented. It’s broken. It’s blocked,” Adams says. “You have to build your own newsletter service. You have to build your own billing system. All the game tools for distribution and ads—none of that is available to adult companies. All the awesome stuff that everyone expects you to have is blocked.”

That means adult operations need people like Chris O’Connell. After building the Mikandi video engine, O’Connell helps run a side business, Sendfaster, that sells similar technology to other operations, including customers outside the adult industry. Video tech isn’t just a cost. It’s a source of revenue. “The realities of the adult industry have meant that companies have to be scrappy,” O’Connell says.

And yet, no matter how much technology people like O’Connell are willing and able to build, they will still reach enormous roadblocks—just because their tech handles adult content. In 2013, O’Connell landed a ticket to Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference, and he was among the few who had the opportunity to purchase a pair of Google’s computerized eyewear. He did, and that meant he could build software for the device, which seems to project a tiny computer screen somewhere out in front of you when you slip it over your eyes. So, together with Adams and others, he built an app called “Tits and Glass.” He was in the vanguard of a new kind of porn. The app let you share “share, comment, and vote on your favorite sexy photos with Google Glasses.” Then Google shut it down.


Jesse Adams. Annie Marie Musselman for WIRED

Just after the app was released, the Internet giant changed its terms of service, banning content that contained nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. That was the end of Tits and Glass. Later, O’Connell and crew also built an app store for Google Chrome OS—the company’s laptop and desktop operating system—and that was blocked, too. They wanted to put one on Google Chromecast, a gadget that puts apps and video on your TV. Same result.

Virtual Unreality

Nowadays, the prevailing narrative is that virtual reality will re-energize the porn industry. After I spoke to Alec Helmy, the publisher of XBIZ, whocalled Mikandi the future, he wrote back and mentioned VR. Buzzfeed, in its lengthy porn feature, paints VR as the great porn hope. You hear the same thing from, well, WIRED. But the future is more complicated than that. Think of Chris O’Connell and Google Glass. Think of Mikandi and Steve Jobs.

VR and its cousin, “augmented reality,” are controlled by the big corporations. Facebook owns the Oculus Rift. Microsoft built the Hololens. Google does Google Glass. These will treat porn at least like Android treats porn—or maybe even like Glass treated porn when O’Connell unveiled his app. In other words, they won’t allow it through official channels and maybe not at all.

Yes, the adult industry will build virtual reality porn. It has already started. Glider’s CMP Corp offers 180-degree and 360-degree videos through a site called BadoinkVR.com. But in more ways than one, porn VR will sit on the fringes of the Internet. And the mainstream services will offer VR that’s pretty porn-like. No, really. If we can communicate with each other via virtual reality, we will trade pornography—or stuff that’s close to it. Culturally, we’re moving towards a world where this kind of thing is more acceptable, where we’re more open about it. As much as the big corporations bar porn from their services, it still shows up, thanks in part to the people and companies who don’t call themselves porn vendors.

If all this true, then the stuff coming from the adult industry means less. As O’Connell explains, much the same thing is happening on today’s 2D Internet. If we have Snapchat and Twitter and Tumblr, we don’t need the porn companies—or at least, we don’t need them as much as we once did.

O’Connell and Adams and McEwen now kinda wish they had branded themselves as a mainstream operation—not as a porn business. If they called themselves something else, they would have more freedom to do what they want to do. Indeed, as Mikandi competes with all those mainstream services, it’s moving closer to mainstream content. Their store now offers games and comics and e-books. They’re embracing many of the same digital artists whose work shows up on Tumblr and other mainstream services. “In some ways, it’s about: how can we get less adult? Or rather: how do we serve our users more of the time? How do we provide them with the stuff they want all of the time?” O’Connell explains.

When it comes right down to it, he says, Mikandi isn’t all that different from your typical tech startup. It uses many of the same tools to build much the same tech. Yes, it still serves up stuff that’s more extreme than what you might find on even the most liberal of mainstream services. But that will slowly change too, as the mainstream moves closer and closer to porn. “You begin to wonder,” O’Connell says, “if the industry will cease to be its own thing.”

Read more: https://www.wired.com/2015/10/the-porn-business-isnt-anything-like-you-think-it-is/

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Forget fidget spinners. Meet the Infinity Cube.

We’ve hit peak fidget spinner, with some schools even banning the gizmos. Now a design team is hoping adults will want in on the fidgeting action, but instead of spinning, theyll be cubing.

The Infinity Cube is essentially another fidget toy something to distract and occupy your restless hands and mind during calls, meetings, and presentations. But instead of a $4 toy, this design team is raising money to produce the gadgets for adults and at adult prices.

The cube is made out of aluminum and brass pins and is apparently soothing and calming for even the most stressful office environment. It better be since it starts out at $65 a cube on their Kickstarter page. They’ve already raised nearly $30,000, which means they’ll also make a case to carry the fidget cube.

When splayed out, the cube is under 1 inch thick, so it’s not a huge thing to carry around.

A case for your cube.

The cubes are supposed to arrive by August for everyone who paid for the calming toy. And crowdfunding is still open until mid-June, so you can still grab a silver or black cube.

The creators claim the cube is an office must-have, “allowing you to fidget with one hand and work with the other.” Like fidget spinners, it’s supposed to help with focus, anxiety, and stress.

Here’s the one-handed fidgeting in action:

Fidget away.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/15/fidget-infinity-cube-kickstarter/

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Removing gender from MTV awards: a start, but not equality

(CNN)The 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards were clearly designed to highlight diversity in terms of race, gender and sexual orientation. The Best Kiss award went to the two young black men who starred in the second act of “Moonlight,” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” won best reality show. Maxine Waters, Donald Trump’s most outspoken congressional opponent, presented the Best Fight Against the System award with Tracee Ellis Ross. Acceptance speeches stressed unity and diverse representation in movies and TV.

But the most significant development at this year’s awards was the debut of genderless acting awards, replacing the conventional “best actor” or “best actress” categories. Emma Watson and Millie Bobby Brown took home the two major acting awards, best actor in a movie and best actor in a TV show, respectively, for “Beauty and the Beast” and “Stranger Things.”
Are genderless acting awards the answer to achieving gender parity in Hollywood? Actor Asia Kate Dillon thinks so. Dillon, who identifies as gender non-binary and who uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they,” presented the award to Watson in a symbolic gesture whose meaning was lost on no one. “Binaries, whether it’s ‘man’ or ‘woman,’ or ‘black’ and ‘white,’ were created to separate us,” they were recently quoted as saying. “So without (them), there is only ‘us,’ which makes us all equal.”
    The notion of genderless acting categories — just like the notion of a color-blind society — is a nice idea. But we can’t just pretend that patriarchy and male privilege don’t exist anymore, that women will magically have the same chance at recognition that men do, especially when they still earn 80 cents to the male dollar on average.
    By featuring genderless acting categories and casting Dillon as a presenter, MTV obviously wanted to make a statement about gender identity. Abolishing gender-specific acting categories also seemed to be MTV’s effort to show greater respect for women in Hollywood. In his acceptance speech, “Beauty and the Beast” director Bill Condon reinforced this line of thinking by thanking “women,” a huge and powerful audience, he said, who were going to change the movie business.
    The overwhelmingly Pollyanna-ish tone of the show notwithstanding — and, let’s be honest, this is a feature of most awards shows — I take issue with Condon’s statement, and with the whole premise of genderless acting categories as a step toward gender parity. First, women have always been a huge segment of moviegoing audiences and currently hold a slight majority, and yet, they still hold very few positions of power as top executives, directors and producers. Not that much has changed at the top of the Hollywood hierarchy since the days of the Bette Davis-Joan Crawford rivalry that was just dramatized in Ryan Murphy’s FX show “Feud.” Like the incredible animated opening montage of that show, male executives and male-dominated writing rooms are still pulling the strings.
    We shouldn’t take it on faith that, because these two genderless acting awards went to women, this will become a trend — especially at more prestigious, serious awards shows like the Oscars, Golden Globes and Emmys. As April Reign’s #OscarsSoWhite campaign proved, Hollywood’s “wokeness” is not a constant, and the Academy had to be shamed into diversifying its membership and nominations. Back in 2002, when Denzel Washington and Halle Berry took home the most important acting awards, many thought the problem of racially diverse representation had been solved. And yet, in 2015 and 2016, no actors of color were nominated at all. 2017’s windfall of nominated black actors (which, notably, included no Latino actors and only one South Asian actor) was clearly a response to this failure.
    Beyond the reach of Hollywood, we are also living in a moment when, as many thinkpieces have asserted, the “The Handmaid’s Tale” — the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopic novel in which women under a brutally misogynist regime are reduced to their biological and domestic functions — feels too close to our current reality for comfort, and we cannot afford to buy into the idea that genderless acting categories will help achieve substantive gender parity. Women are facing restriction, and even criminalization, of reproductive rights, decreased access to affordable contraception and preventative health services, and a rampant culture of sexual assault where perpetrators are rarely held accountable and survivors often made to feel that they are at fault. Trans and gender nonconforming people face particular prejudice and violence, and the stigma they face is not going to simply melt away if awards shows cut their categories in half.

    Join us on Twitter and Facebook

    As Watson acknowledged in her acceptance speech, MTV’s genderless acting category will mean different things to different people — and perhaps, like Dillon, most gender nonconforming people will see it as an important step. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee this move heralding a genderless future. Before we dispense with gender (and race), we need equity, and in a world where — as we saw after last week’s healthcare vote — a room full of old, straight white men can still make decisions about women’s bodies, we aren’t there yet.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/08/opinions/mtv-genderless-acting-categories-bodenheimer-opinion/index.html

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    Hulu scores deal with NBCU for its live TV service, will now carry all four major broadcast networks

    Just ahead of the launch of Hulus forthcoming live TV service, the company today announced a new deal with NBCUniversal that will bring NBC and Telemundo-owned television stations to the new service, expected to arrive this month. The agreement greatly expands Hulus live TV lineup with the addition of top networks, including NBC, Telemundo, USA, Syfy, Bravo, E!, MSNBC, CNBC, NBCSN, Sprout and others.

    With the addition of NBC, Hulus live service will have the top four broadcast channels available, as it already announced deals with CBS, Fox and Disney-ABC.

    Hulus total number of live TV channels now tops 50, the company says.

    The deal also allows Hulu to license NBC and Telemundo broadcast affiliates for its live TV service. At launch, Hulu will have the full load of local channels in five or six major markets, but will add more local affiliateson a weekly basis as these further deals close, were told.

    NBCU properties are home to some of televisionsmore popular shows, like NBCs This Is Us, Blindspot, The Voice, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers and Saturday Night Live; plus Mr. Robot from USA; top sci-fi series like The Expanse, 12 Monkeys and others from Syfy; entertainment and lifestyle programming from E! and Bravo; news from MSNBC and CNBC; Spanish-language programming from Telemundo; and kids shows from Sprout.

    For sports fans, the agreement means the service will also gain access to a range of popular sports programming, including Sunday Night Football and the Olympics, as well as networks like NBCSN, Golf Channel and NBCs regional sports networks inChicago, Philadelphia, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Bay Area, California and Northwest.

    Hulu already had a fairly robust sports lineup ahead of the NBCU deal, with agreements that will bring ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports and TNT to its service.

    NBC Universal is home to many of todays leading sports, news, entertainment and lifestyle networks brands that not only draw large audiences but also drive pop culture, said Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins, in a statement. With this agreement in place, Hulu will soon provide an affordable, complete live TV package that includes all four major broadcast networks, the top-rated cable news channels, a massive sports offering and our deep existing premium streaming library for under $40.

    While Hulu is entering a market where there are already a host of competitors like Sling TV, AT&Ts DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue and now YouTube TV it has the advantage of name recognition and the ability to upsell to an existing customer base. Its also the first streaming TV competitor to combine anon-demand library of licensed TV and movie content (the version of Hulu thats available now) with its ownoriginal programming, as well as with a streaming TV serviceand the accompanying on-demand shows from its broadcast partners.

    The services under-$40 pricing is designed to make it appealing to those who want to cut the cord, but not lose out on much of what pay TV has to offer.

    Beyond its channel lineup and competitive features, like a cloud DVR, Hulu also will roll out an upgraded experience, with a user interface redesign that makes it feel more like a modern, mobile-first streaming service, rather than an online TV guide. The new service will focus more heavily on recommendations that will grow more personalized the more you watch, and will offer push notifications to remind you to watch or record your favorite live shows.

    Beyond CBS, 21st Century Fox, Disney and, now, NBCU, Hulu has agreements that will bring other notable TV channels to its live TV service, includingA&E, History, Lifetime, LMN, FYI, Viceland, Disney Channel, Disney Jr., Disney XD, Fox News, Fox Business, Freeform, FX, FXX, FXM, Nat Geo, Nat Geo Wild,TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, truTV, Boomerang and Turner Classic Movies.

    NBCU, like Disney and Fox, has an ownership stake in Hulu, but has to be a silent partner per federal terms related to its acquisition by Comcast.

    Hulu has publicly said the service will launch sometime this spring, but working out this deal with NBCU was one of thelast hurdles it needed to complete before going live. Weve heard the service will arrive by mid-May (or, as were now hearing, sooner), and with this NBCU announcement today, that time frame looks even firmer.

    Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/01/hulu-scores-deal-with-nbcu-for-its-live-tv-service-will-now-carry-all-four-major-broadcast-networks/

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    From Kyoto, with love: Photos capture over a century of romance and loss

    (CNN)Kyoto’s annual Kyotographie photography fair is among the most exciting art fairs in Japan. Celebrating its fifth year with the theme of love, the fair has assembled a number of intriguing exhibitions that defy clich, presenting unconventional yet heartfelt interpretations.

    Vintage photos of a bygone era

    Paris’ Muse Guimet displayed a selection of prints from the 19th and early 20th centuries dealing with courtesan and wedding customs.
      This kind of photography was largely made for export, but appealed to domestic audiences. The imagery — whether staged or not — captured a way of life that was fast disappearing as Japan moved toward Westernization.
      When foreigners like Italian-British photographer Felice Beato arrived in the port and trade hub of Yokohama in the 1860s, he established a market for photography featuring Japanese customs. The photos (usually albumen prints) were often hand-colored by painters, and then bound in albums.
      Popular themes included walled Yoshiwara pleasure quarter of Edo (now Tokyo), as seen in like “Front Gate of Yoshiwara” (1907-1911) by an anonymous photographer. Celebrity portraits were also in demand, as in the anonymous “Era Kayo, a famous Geisha of Kyoto” (1870s).
      At the top of the courtesan pyramid structure were “oiran,” revered for their entertainments in tea ceremony, poetry, dance and music.
      Two images, “Tayu and Kamuro, Kyoto” (1910), show front and back views of the elaborately embroidered kimono of a high-ranking courtesan flanked by her assistants.
      An endearing image of love among these, though one tinged with sadness, is “Ponta, a Famous Geisha of Shinbashi, Tokyo” (c. 1895) by Kajima Seibei. Ponta was a frequent portrait sitter for the photographer. Divorced and destitute, Seibei eventually married her, and the two spent their later years together in Kyoto.

      New work from an old master

      Nobuyoshi Araki is Japan’s most internationally recognized postwar photographer, perhaps best known for his provocative nudes and bondage scenes.
      There have also been poetic series like “Sentimental Journey” (1971), a photo diary charting his honeymoon with his wife, Yoko, who died in 1990.
      And yet the variant of shown at this year’s Kyotographie is his love of photography, the motive behind his latest series, “A Desktop Love.”
      Araki arranged his personal collection of toys with potted plants on a desk at home, “spontaneously placing down things I like and photographing them,” he said in a statement.
      In one, naked, tied-up female figurines are posed on top of a coiling toy serpent with bloodied fangs, while blood-soaked dinosaurs attack from both sides. In another, a figure emerges from tropical plants.

      A story of survival

      Chikako Yamashiro‘s works blend fictive and real-life elements from Okinawa, her birthplace, from the mid-20th century to its current occupation by the American military.
      “Your voice came out of my throat” (2009) is a poignant oral history piece in video projection. In an empathetic exercise, the photographer retells the story of a survivor of the Battle of Saipan at the end of WWII.
      The artist’s face, tightly framed, initially mimics the mouth movements and facial expressions of the survivor’s voice-over. He recalls tanks and starvation, and mass graves he calls “halls.” He then speaks of watching his mother and sister jump to their deaths off the island’s cliffs.
      As Yamashiro’s face is streaked by tears, the man’s facial features are transposed on top of artist’s. Subsequently, the man’s experiences are internalized as Yamashiro begins to recount the man’s experiences in her own voice.
      “For a moment, my body was transformed into a screen that was dyed with the experience of the other,” Yamashiro said. “What I saw at that moment was not the survivor’s experience itself, but what I imagined from the words he had spoken.”

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/24/arts/kyotographie-2017-photography/index.html

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      CBSs streaming service CBS All Access gains movies

      CBS has quietly expanded the scope of its streaming and on-demand TV service, its own competitor of sorts to Hulu, to now include movies. The lineup at launch is fairly small with just 18 films becoming available, on top of its existing library of 8,500 on-demand episodes of current shows, prior seasons and classic shows from the networks archive, as well as its CBS All Access original programming.

      The movie selection includes a selection of Star Trek films, plus other titles like Up in the Air, Election, and some older movies, like Funny Face and Rosemarys Baby. The titles were licensed from Paramount, the company tells us.

      However, CBS says that it plans to add more moviesover time, as the service grows.

      The companys streaming strategy so far has been to hold out on selling its content to larger, more popular services like Netflix and Hulu, to instead offer its programming on its own subscription product it calls CBS All Access.

      The trouble with that strategy is that CBS only has a handful of topshows like The Good Wife or Big Bang Theory, for example when compared with how many quality shows are available on a rival service, like Netflix. And CBSwon no Emmys last year for its programming just a few Creative Arts awards while Netflix and HBO cleaned up.

      Asking cord cutters to pay for yet another subscription just to watch a couple of good shows is a steep request, especially when there are other ways to buy those TV seasons as a one-off like through Amazon or iTunes.

      Plus, several seasons of The Good Wife areincluded with an Amazon Prime membership, which makes CBSs own subscription service less compelling.

      But CBS has been expanding its focus beyond just what its airing on TV to round out its service for cord cutters. It recently wrapped its first scripted original series, The Good Fight a spinoff of The Good Wife, which was met with praise from critics. And of course, CBS All Access will be the exclusive home in the U.S. to the upcoming new Star Trek series, arriving this fall, that should attract a good-sizedaudience of Star Trek super fans.

      The hope is that the millions of existing fans will be willing to pay for CBS All Access primarily to be able to watch this one show. Andonce there, CBS is thinking about how to engage them in its service more broadly, as well as how tokeep them around when the show is in between seasons or when it wraps.

      In a recent interview, CBSsaid there are 20 million U.S. households without a cable TV subscription the market it believes it can convince to try its streaming product.

      However,for that serviceto be worthwhile, it needs to have a mix of content meaning, more than just TV.

      Weve begun to expand CBS All Accesss content offering to include a selection of film titles relevant to our audience, such as a number of films from the Star Trek franchise, explains Marc DeBevoise, President and COO of CBS Interactive. Our goal for CBS All Access is to provide and continually build a well-rounded service for our subscribers.

      In addition to TV shows, CBS All Access Originals, and now movies, CBSs bet on live streaming TV means its viewers can also watch live events, including sports, through theCBS All Access service. Live TV is an area where many of the newer live TV services are now competing for viewers, including Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV and soon, Hulu live TV.

      The movie lineup at present is fairly unremarkable compared with the vast selections on Netflix and Amazon, but it signals CBSs intent to be more than just a port of CBS television contentto an over-the-top offering.

      CBS didnt officially announce the addition of films, but the blog Cord Cutter News spotted them in the app. CBS confirms that they are indeed new, and hit the service on Thursday.

      The company would not say how often it plans to add more movies, but its focus at launch is bringing the filmsto those who are watching ontheir iPhones and TVs. Initially, the movies will be available on iOS and Windows mobile devices and tablets, plus Roku, Xbox, PS4, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. In the coming weeks, they will also arrive on Android (mobile) and Apple TV.

      Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/17/cbss-streaming-service-cbs-all-access-gains-movies/

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      Tributes pour in for Spotifys Chris Bevington, victim of Stockholm terror attack

      Spotify CEO and cofounder Daniel Ek has paid a moving tribute to Chris Bevington, 41, who was among the four people killed in the Stockholm truck attack on Saturday. Bevington was a director of global partnerships at the music streaming service, which has an office in central Stockholm.

      Ek said he was devastated by the news. It is with shock and a heavy heart that I can confirm that Chris Bevington from our Spotify team lost his life in Fridays senseless attack on Stockholm, he said.

      The following is his full statement, taken from his public post on Facebook:

      It is with shock and a heavy heart that I can confirm that Chris Bevington from our Spotify team lost his life in Fridays senseless attack on Stockholm.

      Chris has been a member of our band for over 5 years. He has had a great impact on not just the business but on everyone who had the privilege to know and work with him. There are no words for how missed he will be or for how sad we all are to have lost him like this.

      Whilst this terrible news is sinking in, our primary focus is on supporting the family and loved ones of Chris in any way we possibly can.

      I am as deeply saddened and upset as all of you that something like this could happen in Sweden. The only light in this deeply tragic moment is the outpouring of love, compassion and solidarity that we have seen from everyone. And that was exactly the kind of person Chris was as well.

      We will greatly miss you Chris. Rest in Peace my friend.

      In a statement, his father John Bevington said: We are all devastated by the untimely and tragic death of our talented, compassionate and caring son Chris. [He was ] a wonderful husband, son, father, brother and close friend to many. The family requests absolute privacy at this incredibly difficult time to mourn his passing in peace.

      Mr Bevington was born in South Africa, where he spent a portion of his childhood before moving to Leatherhead in Surrey, England, with his family. After school, Mr Bevington went on to study at Loughborough University and worked for Barclays before joining Warner Music in Stockholm, where he met his future wife Annika, a copyright lawyer with the firm. They were married in June 2012 and have a son. Instead of accepting wedding presents the couple donated money to Oxfam.

      On Sunday afternoon, thousands took to the streets of Stockholm to attend a memorial concert at Sergels Torg plaza. A carpet of flowers, candles and stuffed toys left by mourners decorated the steps to the plaza.

      Police have identified all four victims of the attack, including two Swedes and a Belgian as well as Mr Bevington. Their families have all been informed. Two people have been arrested over the attack.

      Fifteen people were injured in the attack in which a hijacked truck ploughed through pedestrians in the capitals shopping district. Four of the wounded remain in a serious condition with two being treated in intensive care.

      Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/10/tributes-pour-in-for-spotifys-chris-bevington-victim-of-stockholm-terror-attack/

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      Dog Sits Happily In Back Seat, But Starts Acting Strangely Every Time Windshield Wipers Come On

      Dogs are the best, but they usually have at least one strange quirk about them.

      Some dogs have unexplainable fears, strange reactions to toys, or weird noises that they make in specific circumstances.

      Thereare other very common dog oddities, like twirling around before they sit, sniffing each other’s rears, chasing their tails, and getting a little too friendly with your leg why on earth do they do that?

      Since we can’t really talk to them, it can be difficult to determine exactly why dogs act strangely sometimes some sleuthing is required to understand their behavior.

      Whatever the case may be, we’re pretty mystified as to what thedog in the video below has against windshield wipers.

      The footage was filmed in a car in Puerto Rico, while Enzo the golden patiently satin the back.

      In the video, there’s no sign that Enzo is a nervous pup, in fact he seems pretty happy relaxing in the way-way back.

      But since it’s raining, that means the windshield wipers haveto come on, and the doggy really doesn’tseem to care for that.

      Every time the wipers makea motion, like clockwork, Enzo ducks out of sight what danger does he think they pose?

      Check out the entire cute clip below of the pup plopping to the ground every time the windshield wipers come on.

      And don’t forget to SHAREthis hilarious clip of him with family and friends on Facebook.

      Due to restrictions, this video cannot
      be viewed in your region.

      Read more: https://www.littlethings.com/dog-ducks-when-windshield-wipers-come-on/

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      She Thinks Shes Watching Moms Birthday Skit, Then Couple Lifts Odd Sign With Her Name On It

      On January 28 2017, Ashley arrived to a family get-together in order to rehearse a skit for her mom’s 65th birthday.

      Or so she thought.

      A few family members asked her to be the guinea pig for the skit, in order to practice it before acting out for her mom.

      Ashley’s family are no strangers to putting on musical performances, casino nights, or acting out movies to celebrate special events. So, of course, she didn’t suspect a thing when she was chosen to be the patsy for the skit.

      “You guys actually think my mom is going to sit in the back of the car?” she had asked before the skit was to take place.

      According to her cousin Dave, who came out equipped with a guitar, Ashley had to sit in the trunk of a slow-moving car, just staring forward and not moving her head.

      It began with Dave playing what coincidentally was one of Ashley’s favorite songs on his guitar.

      But when the same song began to blare out of the car she was riding in, she thought things were getting weird.

      Then, friends and family began to appear from everywhere around her, including her mom and her husband, her dad and his fiancee, and her best friends.

      It started to become apparent that this elaborate, musical skit wasn’t for her mom’s birthday at all.

      And it became super apparent that it wasn’t what it seemed once her boyfriend,Nahder Zomorridian, came out of a makeshift house and walked right toward her.

      I won’t spoil this amazing surprise, as it has to be seen to be truly experienced.

      So without further ado, check out the video below, and please SHARE it on Facebook!

      Due to restrictions, this video cannot
      be viewed in your region.

      Read more: https://www.littlethings.com/ashley-and-nahder/

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      23 literary journeys with the world’s great writers

      (CNN)Writers sometimes travel far from home to find inspiration, or even the freedom to express themselves.

      Others are so closely associated with a place that it’s hard to know whether the city left its mark on an author, or if it was the other way around.
      Here are 23 writers whose words helped define a particular place.
      Some places have returned the love with museums and monuments. Others simply allow readers to walk in a writer’s footsteps and experience sites of great inspirations.

        Mark Twain’s Mississippi River (Missouri)

        Reading through “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” or “Huckleberry Finn” today, the landscape around the Mississippi River feels almost unrecognizable.
        When he wrote in the 1800s, the river was frontier land, not the powerful transport network that links half the United States, lined with farms and dotted with major cities.
        However, his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri has preserved some of the sights that the boy Samuel Clemson explored before he become famous — including the caves that became the scene of Tom and Huck’s escapades.
        A riverboat called the Mark Twain plies the river and takes visitors to Jackson’s Island, where Huck and the escaped slave Jim first realized a manhunt was after them.

        Amy Tan’s San Francisco (California)

        San Francisco’s Chinatown is the setting, and arguably a character, in many of Amy Tan’s novels.
        In her breakthrough “The Joy Luck Club,” which was also made into a successful film, the main character Waverly Place Jong was named after the street that her family lived on.
        Parts of the traditional Chinatown are now more Vietnamese, or even Russian. But Waverly Place is still home to the oldest Chinese temple in the United States, Tin How Temple.
        Waverly is known as the “street of the painted balconies,” because of the brightly painted shops and restaurants.

        James Joyce’s Dublin (Ireland)

        The

        One of the great writers of 20th-century China, Lu Xun occupies a peculiar place in the country.
        A leftist who never joined the Communist Party, his blistering critiques of tyranny still shape political thought today.
        Because the party embraced him, his presence in Shanghai has been enshrined. There’s a Lu Xun Memorial Hall (200 Tian’ai Rd, LuXun GongYuan, Hongkou Qu, Shanghai; +86 21 6540 2288), a Lu Xun Park (2288 Sichuan N Rd, LuXun GongYuan, Hongkou Qu, Shanghai; +86 21 6540 1561), and the Lu Xun Memorial Tomb.
        The selections of his works on display are, needless to say, carefully selected to avoid any possible critique of the current government.
        While the park is beautiful, it’s more interesting to wander through what used to be foreign concessions where he set up his League of Leftist Writers. The league’s building is on Duolun Road, now a popular tourist and shopping area.

        Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm (Sweden)

        The global publishing success of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy — not to mention the films made from them — has given Stockholm a new appeal for fans of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
        The Stockholm City Museum runs a walking tour that takes fans into the world of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, or at least into their trendy neighborhood of Sodermalm.
        It’s a chance to see where Larsson placed the fictional sites in his books, from journalist Blomkvist’s favorite caf to Salander’s favorite tattoo parlor.

        JRR Tolkien’s Birmingham (England)

        The film versions of “The Lord of the Rings” made New Zealand synonymous with the novels, a role the country has eagerly embraced. (The national airline featured the characters in a safety video).
        But the actual inspiration for the books more likely draws from Tolkien’s life in England. Born in South Africa, his family moved outside of Birmingham when he was four years old.
        His childhood centered on the bucolic hamlet of Sarehole, where the pastures, streams and woods are widely considered as the inspiration for the Shire and Hobbiton.
        Nearby, the towers of Perrott’s Folly (44 Waterworks Rd, Birmingham) echo “The Two Towers.”
        When Tolkien was a boy, the clanking engine and steam from the Edgbaston Waterworks would have sounded like Mordor’s Barad-dr, the Dark Tower.
        The city of Birmingham maintains a Tolkien Trail to help visitors find the sites.

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/06/travel/literary-journeys/index.html