10 Movies That Broke Down Racial Barriers

          At its best, film-making holds a mirror up to its audience, thus providing an unblinking reflection. Much of what resonates with us in cinema tells us something about ourselves. In regard to the history of race relations, Hollywood provides a serviceable reflection of our society, insofar as progress in both seems to take hold slowly. The following are 10 movies that broke down racial barriers:

  1. The Homesteader (1919) – Written and directed by Oscar Micheaux, who was the first major African-American filmmaker. Using an all-black cast to retell his story, Micheaux pioneered movie-making specifically aimed at black audiences.
  2. Broken Blossoms (1919) – This film earns some credit, despite itself, for breaking down racial stereotypes and prejudice. It tells the love story between a Chinese immigrant and a white nurse. Why despite itself, you ask? Because the role of the immigrant was played by a Caucasian.
  3. Bataan (1943) – As we said, progress tends to come slowly; so the breakthrough in this film is based on the stature and prominence of an African-American character in its script. Kenneth Smith, in the role of a demolitions expert, is a major step up from the usual casting given to people of color up to that point.
  4. Home of the Brave (1949) – James Edwards, in the role of  paralyzed Army private Peter Moss, is the central character of the film. As an educated and sensitive character, Edwards breaks the stereotypical mold of black men on screen.
  5. Carmen Jones (1954) – Though the film itself did little if anything to change racial stereotypes, Dorothy Dandridge delivered a performance in it that won her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role, a first for an African-American actress.
  6. The Defiant Ones (1958) – Two chain gang members from a Southern prison – one white and one black – escape while shackled together, and must rely upon one another to avoid capture. The movie chronicles the changes in their perspectives toward one another as they elude their pursuers.
  7. A Raisin in the Sun (1961) – A poor black family in Chicago receives a large insurance payment, and strives with one another about how best to use it. Through their bickering, we discover the complexities and differing perspectives between generations, individual family members and race.
  8. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) – A white lawyer defends a black man in the Deep South against false charges of rape. Racial prejudices themselves are put on trial in this film adaptation of the literary masterpiece by Harper Lee.
  9. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) – An impending interracial marriage forces the couple’s parents to each examine their prejudices and intolerance. The dialogue is intelligent, genuine and even-handed.
  10. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) – Melvin Van Peebles created an entire genre – the blaxploitation film – with this pioneering movie. Turning the establishment on its end, his assault on White America resonated with black audiences, the echoes of which can still be heard in the corporate offices of Hollywood.

10 Most Ridiculous Uses of the Internet in Movies

            If you’re a regular moviegoer and avid web surfer then you’ve probably seen your fair share of films that strain the limits of credibility where the use of the internet is concerned. Some instances may have slipped past the average viewer, but as a proclaimed techie you just had to laugh. The following are 10 of the most ridiculous uses of the internet in movies:

  1. Italian Job (2003) – Resident techie cohort Lyle (Seth Green) manages to wreak havoc across the entire downtown Los Angeles traffic signal grid, and all from the comfort of his laptop. Absolutely plausible, this happens all the time.
  2. FearDotCom (2002) – This pile of crap would have us believe that a website is capable of killing people just by visiting it. Then again, there’s this, so maybe there’s something to the plot after all.
  3. Untraceable (2008) – We sincerely hope we’re not wrong about this, but a movie that is based on a serial killer posting live streaming videos of his victims’ murders online just doesn’t ring true for me. Not just the premise itself, but also the technological mumbo-jumbo that’s meant to make it appear feasible to the average viewer, just doesn’t hold up.
  4. AntiTrust (2001) – Another of those ‘let’s just agree that the internet is all-powerful and devise a thin plot around it taking over the entire universe’ movies. Sure, we could conceivably get to a point of technological sophistication wherein the movie’s plot could have some remote credibility. But at least humor us and take the time to describe how that might take place.
  5. Tron (1982) – What can you say about this one? It’s a cult classic because of the dazzling (for its time) effects, and our fascination with all things futuristic. But really, a techie getting downsized? In the 1982 economy? We don’t think so.
  6. Gamer (2009) – Perhaps it’s premature to think so, but the prospect of society being reduced to one big multi-player online game just seems so, um… Well on second thought …
  7. The Net (1995) – It’s difficult to imagine that super-sensitive, top secret information could be encrypted into a web page that is accessible to web users at large, regardless of the combination of keystrokes needed to access it.
  8. Johnny Mnemonic (1995) – If you can get past the fact that Keanu Reeves couldn’t manage to make the role of a replacement quarterback believable, let alone this role, you still have to somehow explain another major plot hole. Why would anyone use this ‘droid as a method of data transfer – even in 1995, much less the future, when so many other more reliable (and far better acting) alternatives exist?
  9. War Games (1983) – Setting the basic premise aside, that a super-power like the United States could have its entire nuclear arsenal taken over by a teenager simply by dialing into a publicly accessible modem, this movie is just so very believable.
  10. Enemy of the State (1998) – For the record, we love Gene Hackman and Will Smith both, and really liked the movie. The thing is this movie just gives far too much credit to Big Brother and all of his technological capabilities. If you’re willing to allow – or openly assume – that such capabilities exist, then the movie does a better than average job in selling its message – namely, that “the only privacy left is inside your head”.

10 Examples of How Social Media Can be Anti-Social

          The prevalence and popularity of social media such as Facebook and Twitter have dramatically altered the way many of us communicate. These media have provided a means by which to keep in touch with friends and family, and to network and maintain relationships that weren’t previously available. There are, however, some tendencies that have resulted from their use that can be described as somewhat anti-social by nature. Let’s look at ten examples of this social media dichotomy.

  1. The ability to post one’s views and activities on one’s profile page eliminates the need to correspond on a more personal level, such as via phone call or email. Though it’s technically asocial activity, the lack of personal interaction that’s required can stifle communication.
  2. With the push of a button, social media allow us to not just add, but delete friends without a word spoken or a reason given. We no longer need to discuss our differences or issues with those whom we regard as friends.
  3. Social media use can be addictive, and serve as a substitute for other social activities. Most of us can think of at least one person who spends more time working at Farmville than they do at their job or home.
  4. The very nature of posting every update in our day-to-day lives – no matter how trivial or inconsequential – can be off-putting, leading many people to withdraw from such media out of sheer information overload and/or boredom. There is, in fact, such a thing as TMI, and there’s no better proof of that than social media.
  5. Malware, computer viruses and security issues have led to a backlash against social media out of fear of identity theft or computer attacks from some applications or users. When we rely so heavily on social media to keep in touch, and can’t trust these same media with our personal information, the result is that we either withdraw from their use, or at best curtail how much we share with others.
  6. In much the same way as email affected it previously, social media posts have diminished the conversational skills of many users. True dialogue and interaction have been replaced by a series of posts.
  7. As with many internet activities, distance and anonymity can create a different dynamic when corresponding with others. We feel free to speak in a manner that we might not otherwise be comfortable with in person. While this may give the illusion of empowerment, the reality is that we ultimately fail to connect in a more genuine fashion with our fellow correspondents.
  8. Conversely, this same anonymity can itself promote anti-social behavior in some users. Cyber-bullying, smear campaigns, and trolling are commonplace on many social media websites.
  9. Who hasn’t been annoyed by someone who has inundated them with invitations to join a cause, share a hug, or take some questionnaire? And how many times has it resulted in a spam assault by the host of the cause/questionnaire, etc, or unnerving requests for private information?
  10. We lack the ability to get to know others in person when using social media, and the tools available to us for screening others (mutual friends, profiles, etc.) are not always reliable. Human nature tends toward a much more guarded approach to socializing when we don’t really know a person.
Social media have brought people together that would never have been able to meet otherwise and have become an integral part of socializing in the 21st century. It’s just a question of how we’ve come to define bringing people truly together.

10 Attempts to Provide Internet Access to Third World Countries:

        The importance of internet access in the development of nations has led to a number of efforts to get third world countries connected, and has been met with mixed results. The infrastructure, topography and/or the remoteness of many areas has presented a challenge in getting much of the world online. The following are ten attempts to provide internet access to third world countries:

  1. One Laptop Per Child – With a mission to empower the world’s poorest children via education, OLPC seeks to provide every child with an affordable connected laptop. They are currently working on connecting Latin America, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Mongolia, among other countries.
  2. Google – Google’s Internet Bus Project brings an internet-enabled bus to India in order to educate people about the internet and how it can benefit them. You can follow the project as it progresses at this site.
  3. Green Wi-Fi – Using solar Wi-Fi, they provide “last mile internet access with nothing more than a single broadband internet connection, rooftops and the sun” in places like Lascahobas, Haiti.
  4. Connect Africa Initiative – begun in 2007, the program sought to bridge technological gaps in the African region employing the aid of several IT companies as well as the European Commission, China, and India.
  5. Connect the Caribbean Initiative – Attempting to “connect the unconnected by 2015”, this project is the Caribbean version of the ITU’s (International Telecommunication Union) Connect the World initiative, and is hosted by the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Operators (CANTO).
  6. Connect Asia-Pacific Summit – One of ITU’s projects, which seeks to establish global connectivity by the year 2015, this one is an effort to provide information and communication technology to the Asia-Pacific region.
  7. Connect Arab Summit 2012 – Partnering with the League of Arab States, the United nations agency for information and communication technology, the ITU has established this region as part of its over-arching initiative to connect the world by 2015.
  8. O3b Networks – In an effort to connect the “other 3 billion (O3B) people to the internet, O3b networks is creating a global internet backbone to serve several billion consumers, businesses, and other organizations in 177 different countries.
  9. United Villages – A company whose mission is to bring the internet age to remote communities utilizing a “store and forward” concept. Villagers store their data and email on a local server, and United Villages’ internet-equipped vehicles gather all this data, drive to a Wi-Fi or cellular -equipped city, and forward it over the internet.
  10. The United Nations, on June 3, 2011, declared internet access to be a basic human right. “Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states.”
It’s only a matter of time before the internet bridges connections in third world countries around the world, helping to catch them up with all of the countries who already have unlimited access. Soon enough we really will be fully connected.

9 Ways Really Stupid People Use Twitter

               We’re all aware by now of the many benefits to using Twitter, such as maintaining a network of friends and colleagues with whom to communicate and share ideas. Sadly, the fact that these activities include humans means that there will be some percentage of genuinely head scratch-inducing behavior. The following are 9 ways that really stupid people use Twitter:

1. Linking their tweets to other social sites. There’s a reason people are on Facebook and not on Twitter. If you want attention from someone on Facebook, drop them a message or post an update – on Facebook.
2. Incorrect or inappropriate use of hashtags. The actual purpose of hashtags, or at least the original intent behind them, was to create a search tool that would allow users to find info (tweets) associated with a specific topic. Now people are using them just to distinguish their decidedly pointless tweets with obscure references that serve no purpose whatsoever.
3. Stupid people tend to be, shall we say, originality challenged. Their solution? Well, there’s no reason not to update non-stop simply because you’ve got nothing to say. All you need to do is RT (retweet) posts from other members. Coming up with your own content is severely overrated.
4. Twitter was never intended to serve as a substitute for instant messaging or phone calls, for that matter. Posting back and forth in the form of an ongoing real-time conversation is just clogging up the works for everyone else and renders the whole concept behind tweets and updates moot.
5. Posting every single tune they find inspirational, each time they hear it. Look, sport, you may envision your alter ego to be some uber- hip and popular DJ, but we have some bad news to break to you: nobody wants someone else to provide the soundtrack to their lives, OK? Cool it.
6. Quoting. This is the sort of thing that gets you unfollowed. It’s completely unoriginal by its very nature, not to mention the fact that so many other morons do it at the same time. Don’t try to be someone’s motivational posters and their DJ. Enough already.
7. Auto-following. Auto-following is completely contrary to what social networks and following are all about. The idea is to find those individuals and topics that interest you and follow them. It’s the only worthwhile purpose for spending any time on these sites. Why undo it all by automatically following anyone who chooses to follow you?
8. Advertising. It rarely works, unless it’s your actual gig. Otherwise it simply comes off as cloying, barely disguised (if at all) spam. The idea is to develop an interest in who you are and what you’re about without resorting to outright sales pitches.
9. Auto-tweeting is another waste of time; but worse, it’s a waste of our time as well as yours, stupid tweeter. It’s absolutely unnecessary to have some bot send out a tweet every time you update your website or post a new pic. Please stop. I’ve got enough to keep track of already, thank you.

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