Introducing the Mizoram Synod Choir

I will try to tell the story of how people I have never heard of, who live in a place I have never heard of, and speak a language I have never heard of – have used a photograph I took for the cover art of their musical album.

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At the end of 2001 I went to India and spent about six months backpacking. One photo I took was of a street beggar. I shot it in a small village called Hampi in the state of Karnataka in the southern part of the Indian subcontinent. I actually took half a dozen shots of the same man, and what I particularly liked about this one is the enigmatic face, glistening with sweat. I felt it conveyed the true meaning of being that person.

[singlepic id=259 w=300 h=456 float=right]Back then I wasn’t blogging yet, but I did manage to develop, print, scan and email that photo to folks at home. Fast forward to 2007 when I started blogging and one of the first things I did was retroactively post my travelling correspondence, including this one.

Now we get to two days ago, when I noticed quite a bit of traffic coming to my website from this forum post. I could not understand what language the site was using, but from the bits in English I could decipher the post was discussing the similarity between the cover art of an album and that of Assassin’s Creed, a video game – both featured a hooded man. A user by the name of Angaiha was able to track down the source for the man in the cover art: Yes, it was my photograph.

Upon further investigation it turns out that the cover art was for a choir named Synod Choir for their video CD titled Pathian Hmel which apparently will set you back a hundred Indian Rupees (a little more than two bucks). Oh, yes, it turns out that this musical ensemble comes from the Indian state of Mizoram which I have never heard of, inhabited by Mizo people who speak (and sing) in Mizo language and look nothing like the Indian people I have met travelling.

How do I know what Mizo people look like? Glad you asked, as it gives me the chance to direct your attention to the album’s eponymous song:

It should be mentioned that everything I post on this blog falls under a Creative Commons license which allows for certain uses of it, but using any of the content for commercial purposes goes beyond that scope. Basically, there are legal ramification for the unauthorized usage of my photo, but I will not get into that at this time.

Watch This 80 Minutes Film And Become An Informed Citizen of This Digital Age

In RiP: A Remix Manifesto, web activist and filmmaker Brett Gaylor explores issues of copyright in the information age, mashing up the media landscape of the 20th century and shattering the wall between users and producers. The film’s central protagonist is Girl Talk, a mash-up musician topping the charts with his sample-based songs. But is Girl Talk a paragon of people power or the Pied Piper of piracy? Creative Commons founder, Lawrence Lessig, Brazil’s Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil and pop culture critic Cory Doctorow are also along for the ride.

Check out the film trailer:

You can watch the film on DVD or VOD.

YouTube to Viacom: YOU LIE!

Suing YouTube for 1 billion dollars, Viacom in their opening statements (which have been made public today) claimed the leading video site does not do enough in dealing with copyrighted material; To which YouTube retorted:

For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt “very strongly” that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.

Oh snap!

To fully understand the absurdity of all this you might want to check out my post titled Gaining Better Understanding of Our Digital Age.
I’ll let Professor Lawrence Lessig summarize:

Alice in Wonderland – An X-Rated Musical Fantasy

With all the buzz about Tim Burton‘s latest film, I thought it might be wise to share a piece of cinematic treasure you have never heard off; It’s a 1976 film titled Bill Osco’s Alice in Wonderland and the reason you are unfamiliar with it is that it is, well, technically porn. Now hold on, hold on, don’t let all the pee-pees and the wee-wees scare you off discovering this gem; This is a very thoughtful musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll‘s 19th century classic, which not only includes many of the original characters, but more importantly pays homage to the main themes like Alice’s coming of age and the delicious absurdity of Wonderland. The film, starring Playboy centerfold Kristine DeBell as Alice, is considered part of the Golden Age of Porn and is one of the highest-grossing adult films ever.

Now I’m no film critic, but Roger Ebert is, and this is what he wrote about it almost 34 years ago:

This isn’t another X-rated potboiler but an adult movie with a certain charm. Even the way it avoids the explicitness of hard-core porn is sort of fun, as the camera suggests that the most amazing things are happening just offscreen.
Kristine De Bell wanders through Wonderland with a blissful ignorance as the inhabitants give her a cram course in 50 ways to keep your lover. She’s just fine: Maybe it’s her perpetual look of total innocence and astonishment in the face of Wonderland’s jolly pastimes that makes her seem so sexy. She looks just like the healthy blond with wide-set eyes and Toni curls that sat across the aisle in high school — or should have.

Here’s a snippet (in pre-restoration quality):

You can get your hands on a restored DVD copy through the usual channels.

Video: Home Taping is Killing Music

Musician Dan Bull, whose letters to Lily Allen and Lord Mandelson both became YouTube hits, has done it again; His latests piece is about the music industry’s consistent refusal to accept or adapt to new technology, from the gramophone to the jukebox to commercial radio to the internet. His song, and accompanying video focuses on the most famous campaign, the ill-judged 80s classic; Home Taping is Killing Music.
Check out the British campaign against the Digital Economy Bill at
Lyrics after the jump.
Continue reading Video: Home Taping is Killing Music

My Top 10 List of Films About Food*

No Impact Man (USA, 2009) – Directors: Laura Gabbert, Justin Schein – documentary

Food, Inc. (USA, 2008) – Director: Robert Kenner – documentary

Fast Food Nation (USA, 2006) – Director: Richard Linklater

Our Daily Bread (Germany, 2005) – Director: Nikolaus Geyrhalter – documentary

Super Size Me (USA, 2004) – Director: Morgan Spurlock – documentary

* Well, not really about food in general, but about the global and local impact of corporate production of our food.
** As with any of my ‘Top 10’ lists, upon publishing they usually don’t have 10 items in them as I like to leave room for future additions.

Evil Winds, Full of Anger, Rage and Ravage, Smash and Shatter

With the opening of the second Israeli IKEA store and the first ever H&M store, this has certainly been a successful week for Swedish corporations. The Israelis never seem to disappoint, proving time and time again they are willing to go to any distance for discounts. I guess you can get more crap when you pay less.
Most Israelis do not know IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad was a member of the pro-Nazi Swedish Movement, and those who do know that fact don’t seem to care much. Holocaust-Shmolocaust, at these prices who can afford to hold a grudge.

Apparently I’m not the only one disgusted with retail to the point of evoking the memory of the Third Reich; A fellow Israeli saw the masses of Jews huddled in front of the H&M store, flooding in upon its opening, and decided to juxtapose the video footage with the famous Yiddish song ‘Our Town is Burning‘ (Undzer shtetl brent) by Mordecai Gebirtig. Here is the video, followed by the English version of the first stanza:

Our Town is Burning – Mordecai Gebirtig – English Lyrics

It’s burning, brothers! It’s burning!
Oh, our poor village, brothers, burns!
Evil winds, full of anger,
Rage and ravage, smash and shatter;
Stronger now that wild flames grow —
All around now burns!
And you stand there looking on
With futile, folded arms
And you stand there looking on —
While our village burns!



Home – A Short Film by Matt Faust

Thanks to Rachel Maddow tweeting about it, I was fortunate enough to watch last year the film “Home” by Matt Faust. It is a touching portrayal of the essence of home as conveyed through bittersweet, evocative archive photos of a house in Chalmette, Louisiana that was flooded by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The film distills the essence of home and the feeling of loss that occurs when home becomes a memory. It does so in a way that everyone can relate to so that observers of Katrina may see beyond the forensic analysis of Katrina’s aftermath and gain a deeper understanding of what has been lost.

During the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival the film was available for viewing online, but unfortunately now it is not. When I asked its creator as to why not make it freely available on YouTube, he replied:

Hey Shahar,
In a perfect world, I would put it anywhere I wanted and let everyone see it. But unfortunately, doing that would jeopardize many opportunities for it. Things like film fests, distributors, and the academy awards are very peculiar about how and when they want their films to be shown.
I realize that this makes it much harder for people like you to write interesting stories about it, but that’s just the way it has to be for now. Hopefully, a distribution deal will be worked out soon that will at least let you point people to the film on iTunes and other outlets.
Thanks and sorry,

So all I have for you today is the following trailer, which is technically a teaser – but since it is 28% as long as the entire 6 minutes film, it may qualify as Cliff’s Notes:

Video: ’70 Million’ by Hold Your Horses

As someone who loves covers, renditions, remixes and mashups in all their forms, I was very happy to stumble upon this cheeky video by Franco-American band Hold Your Horses    for their song ’70 Million’. It is an entertaining look at art history as band members playfully reconstruct famous paintings, offering their own interpretation to the masters.


Visit Israel in Spite of Our ‘Visit Israel’ Ads

There is a long history of ‘Visit Israel’ ads that seem to miss the mark. Various organizations want the world to visit our tiny country, but apparently good intentions are just not enough, and these often result in offensive adverts. The latest spot, by the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), should get some kind of an award for bad taste:

Size Doesn’t Matter – CIJA – 2010

Following are a few more ‘Visit Israel’ ads you might find offensive. One thing I find common to all these ads is that they all probably started as funny jokes during a brainstorming session, but there were probably no adults in the room to say “Ha, ha… very funny, now let’s think harder”. Some of these were specifically aimed at quote-unquote going viral, hoping for a lot of FW: FW: FW: THIS IS FUNNY emails.

Un-holy Israel – Keta Keta – 2007

Indeed – Israel at Heart – 2005