Tag Archives: videos

Public’s trust was abused over police videos

On Aug. 14, after a night of unrest prompted by the fatal police shooting of a black man, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said his review of body camera video of the incident proved the officer had acted appropriately.

“The individual did turn toward the officer with a firearm in his hand,” Flynn stated, later saying the man, 23-year-old Sylville Smith, “was raising up with” the gun.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said a still photo he was shown from the video “demonstrates, without question, that (Smith) had a gun in his hand.” In fact, Barrett declared, the officer “ordered that individual to drop his gun, the individual did not drop his gun.”

This purportedly exculpatory video itself was not promptly released, despite requests from Barrett and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker that this occur. It still has not been released. But we know now that public officials did not give an accurate account of what it shows.

Bill Lueders, Your Right to Know columnist
Bill Lueders, Your Right to Know columnist

We know that because, in mid-December, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm filed criminal charges against Dominique Heaggan-Brown, the former Milwaukee police officer who killed Smith. (Heaggan-Brown was fired over an alleged sexual assault shortly after the shooting.)

According to the criminal complaint charging the officer with first-degree reckless homicide, Smith held a gun as the officer fired his first shot. Smith, struck in the arm, pitched the gun over a fence and fell to the ground. The officer then fired a second, fatal shot to Smith’s chest.

“A review of the body camera video from (both officers at the scene) confirms that at the time of the second shot, Smith was unarmed and had his hands near his head,” the complaint says.

A 2014 state law governing investigations of police shootings requires that gathered materials be released if a decision is made not to file charges. The law is otherwise silent as to whether and when these materials are released.

Barrett has renewed his call for release, while Flynn has weighed in against this. Chisholm told me his office will not release this evidence prior to its use in a criminal proceeding.

In this case, I believe, it is already too late to restore confidence in the integrity of the process. Flynn’s representations about the video were at best misleading, and Barrett’s statements suggest he was misled, as was the public.

The whole point of outfitting police with cameras, at taxpayer expense, is to ensure truthfulness and enhance accountability. That did not happen here. And many more months may pass before the video is released.

Other jurisdictions have more enlightened policies. In Chicago, for instance, videos of police shootings are normally released within 60 days, and posted online.

In the legislative session that begins in January, there will likely be renewed efforts to establish consistent state policies regarding police body cameras; a bill to do so in the last session went nowhere.

Now is the time, in the wake of this regrettable case, for the citizens of Wisconsin to insist that the video records they are paying for are not kept secret, or used to mislead them.

Robots organize your photos, so you can procrastinate

If you’re like many people, you have thousands of photos on your phone, long forgotten after you’ve posted a few on Instagram or Facebook.

They don’t have to stay forgotten. Apple and Google are both applying a form of artificial intelligence called “machine learning” to organize your pictures and video _ and along the way, help you rediscover last year’s vacation, dinner with close friends and a casual summer outing to the park.

Apple’s tools are part of last month’s iOS 10 system update for iPhones and iPads. The Google Photos app for Apple and Android devices has a digital assistant to automatically organize these memories _ and Google signaled last week that it will only get smarter. And on Wednesday, Google introduced additional features for rediscovery.

Here’s a look at how they take you down memory lane:

APPLE’S MEMORIES

Apple’s new Memories feature automatically generates video highlights around a theme, such as a trip or birthday party. Individual photos and snippets from video are chosen for you, as is the music, though you can change it to reflect a different mood.

This isn’t just a slideshow. There’s slow zooming and panning, reminiscent of Ken Burns historical documentaries. Some of the photos also come to life, at least on newer iPhones that automatically take three seconds of video with every photo.

When you’re ready to share, the app creates a standard movie file _ so it works on Windows and Android devices, too.

For me, Apple’s app created a “Florida to Illinois” package for a three-week trip in January and one for a day trip to Philadelphia last November. But Apple goes beyond date and location. Apple created a “Together” package for shots with family over the past two years. It also created an “At The Beach” package with beach photos since 2013. Other scenic themes could include mountains, lakes and sunsets.

Apple offers up to three new Memories a day. You can create more based on photos you add to an album and generate new automated ones by scrolling down to “Related.” You can also add or delete images within Memories _ in my experience, a few included mundane screenshots I had to get rid of.

Nothing will ever replace the human touch. But let’s face it, even though I keep meaning to organize my photos, I never find the time. The machine-generated selections aren’t necessarily ones I’d choose myself, but with a small amount of tweaking, they’re presentable and will tide me over until I get around to catching up manually … someday.

 

GOOGLE’S ASSISTANT

Google Photos has been at this longer and offers more types of packages. With collages, Google combines smaller versions of several shots into one layout . Animations combine a bunch of photos taken in succession so that they resemble as a moving image . Unlike typical “GIF” animation files, Google applies its magic to align successive shots, so buildings and bridges look steady _ without the shake common with handheld video. Google also offers albums and video highlights, though without the Ken Burns effect.

Google’s Assistant generates much of this for you automatically. You can edit auto-generated albums and video highlights, but not collages or animation _ although you can create your own from scratch. (That does defeat the purpose of letting the robots do the work, though.)

Sharing is easy and doesn’t require recipients to have Google Photos.

The results vary in quality. I tend to take several shots of the same subject, just in case some are blurry. Yet I get collages and animations out of those repetitive shots. The albums and video highlights I got are grouped by location and date, though Google says it will be doing more with themes , such as following a kid growing up.

Most of my computer-generated creations are animations and collages. As with Apple, Google’s choices aren’t necessarily ones I’d make, if only I had the time. But some are good enough that I look forward to alerts for new ones to check out.

I also enjoyed a feature called “Rediscover this day.” Google will automatically create collages from shots taken on a day, say, two years ago. On Wednesday, Google said it will apply that to people, too, so you’ll get collages of you with a specific friend or family member.

 

SEARCHING

Apple and Google are both getting better at image recognition. Apple’s version tends to be more conservative. While Apple found four photos in a search for fireworks, Google found dozens. Google also found more photos with hats, though one was actually a strange hairdo and a few were of a headband. Then again, Apple thought an illustration of a hut was a hat.

Google is also bolder with face recognition. Its technology is smart enough to recognize the same child at 2 months and 6 years, while Apple often separates the same child into multiple identities (you can merge them, and things will be fine after that).

Google has an edge over Apple in part because it taps its powerful servers to process photos. Apple leaves all the machine thinking to your device as a privacy measure. But Apple says it also favors being right more than complete to reduce the work people need to do to fix things. Being wrong can also have consequences: Google had to apologize last year after its software got too aggressive and mistakenly labeled two black people as gorillas.

 

STORAGE

To free up space, both services will automatically clear photos from your phone after uploading them to the internet, once you activate the option. You still have a lower-resolution version on the device and can get the sharper image anytime, as long as you’re online.

Google Photos offers unlimited online storage of photos at up to 16 megapixels and videos at 1080p high definition _ good enough for most people. It will compress larger photos, or you can store the original and have it count toward your Google Drive limit, which starts at 15 gigabytes for free. Apple’s iCloud Photo Library requires paying once you exceed 5 gigabytes, which is enough for a few thousand photos.

 

On the Web

Apple Memories video from January trip.

Google animation of fountains.

Google collage.

Planned Parenthood video maker refuses probation, wants to use trial as public platform

An anti-abortion activist’s plan to reject a plea deal offering probation for charges related to making undercover Planned Parenthood videos likely means his goal is to use a trial as a public platform to criticize the nonprofit.

David Daleiden surrendered to authorities, posted $3,000 bond and made two court appearances on the felony and misdemeanor charges he faces before prosecutors offered him pretrial diversion, a form of probation that would keep him out of prison and ultimately have the charges dismissed.

But Terry Yates, one of Daleiden’s attorneys, said Daleiden isn’t interested in accepting the plea offer and is prepared to head to trial if he can’t quash the indictment.

“The only thing we’re going to accept right now is an apology,” he said.

The pretrial diversion, also offered to Daleiden’s co-defendant and fellow activist Sandra Merritt, is the “right thing to do” and a common offer for first-time nonviolent offenders, Harris County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Jeff McShan said.

But he also said prosecutors are ready to proceed to trial and that “our case is strong.”

Attorneys for Merritt, who was freed on $2,000 bond, have not indicated whether the 62-year-old would take the probation offer. One of them, Dan Cogdell, didn’t reply to phone calls seeking comment.

After his court appearances, Daleiden briefly spoke to about 30 cheering supporters who had gathered at a rally outside the courthouse in Houston, thanking them for their support and saying there will come a day “when there is no longer a price tag put on human life.” The 27-year-old, who’s described himself as a “citizen journalist,” also criticized Texas authorities for not prosecuting Planned Parenthood.

The decision by Daleiden and his legal team to not accept the plea offer likely means the activist wants to use a trial to promote his cause, said Joel Androphy, a Houston defense attorney not connected to the case.

“If they take a plea, then their whole purpose of doing this goes down the tubes,” he said. “This is about a mission. The mission is to show Planned Parenthood did something wrong. Even though they are on trial, they are going to be prosecuting Planned Parenthood during their defense.”

Most defendants who are offered pretrial diversion would likely accept such an offer, said Melissa Hamilton, a visiting criminal law scholar at the University of Houston Law Center, “but the case here is a little different.”

“At least what the individuals have been saying is they want this to be their new platform to battle the system,” she said.

Androphy said while Daleiden wants a trial, prosecutors probably want to settle the case as quickly as possible.

“This is a purely political issue and they don’t want to get involved in it, I’m sure,” he said.

Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero said “the wheels of justice have only begun to roll,” and that the group doesn’t “expect this to be the last time these extremists are booked and fingerprinted.”

He also said Planned Parenthood hopes other law enforcement agencies pursue charges as well.

Both Daleiden and Merritt, who are from California, were indicted on Jan. 25 on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Daleiden also was indicted on a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs that carries up to a year in prison.

Attorneys say the pair plans to plead not guilty. Daleiden and Merritt are each set to appear in court on March 28.

The district attorney’s office initially launched a grand jury investigation to look into Planned Parenthood after the undercover videos, released in August 2015, indicated that the women’s reproductive health organization was illegally selling fetal tissue to make a profit.

The grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of misusing fetal tissue, opting instead to indict Daleiden and Merritt, who made the videos and are accused of using fake driver’s licenses to get into a Houston clinic.

The video footage showed them posing as representatives of a company called BioMax, which purportedly procured fetal tissue for research. Planned Parenthood has said the fake company offered to pay the “astronomical amount” of $1,600 for organs from a fetus. The clinic said it never agreed to the offer.

Legendary rock star David Bowie dies at 69 after battle with cancer

Legendary British rock star David Bowie has died aged 69 after a secret battle with cancer.

A chameleon and a visionary, Bowie straddled the worlds of hedonistic rock, fashion and drama for five decades, pushing the boundaries of music and his own sanity to produce some of the most innovative songs of his generation.

“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer,” read a statement on Bowie’s Facebook page dated Sunday. Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, confirmed the death.

Mourners laid flowers and lit candles beside a memorial to Bowie in the Brixton area of south London where he was born, and tributes poured in from some of the biggest names in music, including the Rolling Stones, Madonna and rapper Kanye West.

“The Rolling Stones are shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the death of our dear friend David Bowie,” the Stones said. “He was an extraordinary artist, and a true original.”

Madonna said on Twitter: “Talented. Unique. Genius. Game Changer. The Man who Fell to Earth. Your Spirit Lives on Forever!”

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he had grown up with Bowie’s music and described his death as “a huge loss.”

In a music video accompanying Bowie’s new Blackstar album, which was released on his 69th birthday last Friday, the singer was shown in a hospital bed with bandages around his eyes.

Born David Jones in south London two years after the end of World War Two, he took up the saxophone at 13 before changing his name to David Bowie to avoid confusion with the Monkees’ Davy Jones, according to Rolling Stone.

He shot to fame in Britain in 1969 with “Space Oddity,” whose lyrics he said were inspired by watching Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey” while stoned.

Bowie’s hollow lyrics summed up the loneliness of the Cold War space race between the United States and the Soviet Union and coincided with the Apollo landing on the moon.

“Ground Control to Major Tom. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on … For here am I sitting in my tin can. Far above the world. Planet Earth is blue. And there’s nothing I can do.”

“SPACE ODDITY ZIGGY”

But it was Bowie’s 1972 portrayal of a doomed bisexual rock envoy from space, Ziggy Stardust, that propelled him to global stardom. Bowie and Ziggy, wearing outrageous costumes, makeup and bright orange hair, took the rock world by storm.

“Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly,” according to the lyrics which Bowie sang with a red lightning bolt across his face and flamboyant jumpsuits.

“Making love with his ego Ziggy sucked up into his mind. Like a leper messiah,” according the lyrics.

Bowie, ever the innovator ahead of public opinion, told the Melody Maker newspaper in 1972 that he was gay, a step that helped pioneer sexual openness in Britain, which had only decriminalized homosexuality in 1967. Bowie had married in 1970.

He told Playboy four years later he was bisexual, but in the 1980s he told Rolling Stone magazine that the declaration was “the biggest mistake I ever made” and that he was “always a closet heterosexual”.

This was a period which saw Bowie sporting an array of fantastic costumes, some reportedly based on the chilling Kubrick film “A Clockwork Orange”.

Now one of the top transatlantic rock stars, Bowie continued to innovate, helping to produce Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” delving into America’s R&B and working with John Lennon.

“He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way,” said Tony Visconti, the U.S. producer who helped lift Bowie to stardom.

“He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry,” he said.

“LET’S DANCE”

Bowie reinvented himself again in the mid-seventies, adopting a soul and funk sound, and abandoning stack heels for designer suits and flat shoes.

He scored his first U.S. number one with “Fame” and created a new persona, the “Thin White Duke,” for his “Station to Station” album.

But the excesses were taking their toll. In a reference to his prodigious appetite for cocaine, he said: ““I blew my nose one day in California. “And half my brains came out. Something had to be done.”

Bowie moved from the United States to Switzerland and then to Cold War-era Berlin to recuperate, working with Brian Eno from Roxy Music to produce some of his least commercial and most ambitious music, including ““Low” and “”Heroes” in 1977.

In 1983 Bowie changed tack again, signing a multi-million-dollar five-album deal with EMI. The first, “”Let’s Dance,” returned him to chart success and almost paid off his advance.

“If you say run, I’ll run with you. If you say hide, we’ll hide. Because my love for you. Would break my heart in two,” he sang in Let’s Dance.

He starred on Broadway in “The Elephant Man” at the start of the decade and appeared in an array of films including “Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence,” “The Snowman,” “Absolute Beginners” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ”.

His love-life fascinated gossip columnists and his marriage to stunning Somali supermodel Iman in 1992 guaranteed headlines.

Bowie kept a low profile after undergoing emergency heart surgery in 2004. It was not widely known that he was fighting cancer.

“Look up here, I’m in heaven,” he sings from a hospital bed in the video accompanying his last album.

“I’ve got scars that can’t be seen. I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen. Everybody knows me now. Look up here, man, I’m in danger. I’ve got nothing left to lose.”

Online animals of the year: Grumpy Cat, NALA Cat and Toast

Animals can melt the human heart, tickle the funny bone or bring us to tears. And thanks to Instagram, YouTube and other online options, you can enjoy their antics simply by following, liking or pinning them.

Dr. Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says two things make animal photos and videos so popular.

– Many animals have physical traits that subconsciously cause humans to nurture, like large, round heads and large eyes. Think E.T.

– Many images show animals doing something unexpectedly clever, human-like or just plain cute – kittens trying to run up a slide, for example, she said.

“Some do both,” Beaver said, “like Garfield and Mickey Mouse.”

We got hooked on six animals in 2015, from dogs and cats to a panda and a rat, whose popularity is likely to continue into the new year. Here’s a look.

GRUMPY CAT

Nobody’s busier than Grumpy Cat. She had 8.3 million Facebook followers as of Christmas Eve. Her YouTube videos have drawn viewers by the tens of millions.

On Dec. 8, the feline with the comical frown became the first cat immortalized in wax at the Madame Tussauds museum in San Francisco.

The 3-year-old, 4-pounder with feline dwarfism is making her second movie as well as a cartoon series, and is featured in a series of Random House Little Golden Books (the first being “The Little Grumpy Cat that Wouldn’t”). She’s also continuing as spokescat for Friskies cat food. Her stuffed animal line will grow in 2016, and there are calendars, socks, tanks, T-shirts, sweatshirts, gift tags, key chains and other souvenirs, said owner Tabitha “Tabby” Bundesen.

Online: https://www.youtube.com/user/SevereAvoidance and https://www.facebook.com/TheOfficialGrumpyCat/ .

NALA CAT

Nala is a 5-year-old shelter cat, a Siamese and tabby mix who stands out as the most popular cat on Instagram with 2.6 million followers. She also has 1.8 million Facebook followers.

Varisiri Methachittiphan found her in 2010 as an orphaned kitten in an animal shelter in Castaic, California and knew she was the one. Methachittiphan started posting photos of the feline with striped fur and big blue eyes and Nala’s popularity exploded. She looks particularly fetching in hats.

Online: http://instagram.com/nala-cat and https://www.youtube.com/user/iamnalacat .

MARUTARO

This bundle of fun and fur, a 7-year-old Shiba Inu, has been top dog on Instagram for several years. He lives in Tokyo with owner Shinjiro Ono, who says he was more surprised than anyone that Maru’s popularity took off.

“His round face, I think, that’s the charm point,” said Ono, who compared the dog’s look to Japanese cartoon characters like Doraemon or Pikachu. “The round face makes people smile.”

Shiba Inus, with their pointy ears and noses, are a popular breed in Japan. But Maru’s popularity is worldwide, with 2.2 million followers on Instagram.

Online: http://instagram.com/marutaro .

TOAST

Toast is a King Charles spaniel and puppy-mill rescue with a floppy pink tongue that hangs out of her mouth. She’s also a celebrity, appearing in fashion shows and shoots, photographed wearing sunglasses and other accessories, and retweeted by the likes of Reese Witherspoon. She’s probably best-known for her Instagram feed, toastmeetsworld.

On Jan. 13, Toast will marry a dog named Finn at a hotel in Manhattan. Donations to their wedding registry at www.zola.com/registry/toastandfinn will raise money to fight puppy mills and pay for care for needy animals.

Online: https://www.instagram.com/toastmeetsworld/?hl=en .

BEI BEI THE GIANT PANDA BABY

Bei Bei (BAY BAY) weighed just 4 ounces when he was born Aug. 22 at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. He was pink, hairless, blind and dependent on his mother Mei Xiang (may SHONG). Four months later, he weighs around 18 pounds and is a lively bundle of fur, muscles, claws and teeth.

Bei Bei’s public debut is scheduled for mid-January, but fans can follow his every squirm and squeal online. There’s a panda cam, Twitter feed, YouTube clips of everything from his first steps to his veterinary check-ups and more.

Online: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/webcams/giant-panda.cfm .

PIZZA RAT

A video of a rat dragging an entire slice of pizza down the steps of a Manhattan subway station was posted on YouTube on Sept. 22. By the next morning it had been viewed more than 1.4 million times. By late December, the views exceeded 8.7 million. The video flourished on late night TV and earned “Pizza Rat” a nomination in The New York Times’ “New Yorker of the Year” contest “for embodying our collective id.” Or, as Gothamist.com put it, “We are all this rat.”

Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPXUG8q4jKU .

Star Wars attractions opening at Disney

The Force is awakening a little early at Walt Disney World.

The Florida-based theme park resort has unveiled new “Star Wars” entertainment weeks ahead of the much-anticipated release of the movie, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Some of the Star Wars attractions opened last week at the resort’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park.

Those include a courtyard filled with all-things “Star Wars,” a video game center, a movie theater showing abridged versions of the “Star Wars” movies and a motion simulator showing “Star Wars” locales and characters.

Later this month, visitors also will get to see a “Star Wars”-themed fireworks show.

Both Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California are planning Star Wars-themed lands in the near future.

Belgium tourist boards latch on to cat craze on social media

Belgium’s tourist boards have latched onto a social media craze of cats that gave Brussels light relief during a tense five-day security lockdown in the wake of militant attacks in Paris.

Images of the city’s streets deserted as security forces hunted suspected Islamist militants have dealt a blow to Belgium’s tourism industry, with hotels reporting many cancellations.

When police on Sunday asked the public in Brussels not to share details of their operations on social media, Belgians took to tweeting each other pictures of their cats.

Capitalizing on the social media hit, Belgium’s three tourist authorities have now released a 20 second video film showing cats at Brussels’s landmarks such as the historic Grand Place or the Atomium, which they said was filmed at the height of the lockdown.

The video depicts cats dancing all over the city, some wearing black bowler hats or with green apples in front of their faces in a nod to paintings of the Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte.

In the background, a saxophone is heard, an invention of the Belgian Adolphe Sax. The original trend drew a warm response on social media, and the tourist authorities said they wanted to show how proud they were of Brussels and its residents for their good-humored response to the crisis.

Belgium’s capital has been on maximum alert since Saturday over the threat of a possible Paris-style attack. A coordinated assault in which 130 people were killed in Paris on Nov. 13 was claimed by Islamic State.

Brussels, home to the European Commission, reopened its metro system and schools on Wednesday, albeit with armed police and soldiers still patrolling.

“Tourism Flanders, Visit Brussels and Wallonia-Brussels Tourism are proud of the people of Brussels and wanted to give them an extra boost,” they said. “Their winking cats evoked great sympathy at home and abroad.”

On the Web…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AB6K7rWlG4 

Found Footage Fest salutes VHS oddities

The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” rings true for Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett, hosts of the Found Footage Festival, a celebration of VHS nostalgia.

Prueher and Pickett have been video collectors since 1991, searching thrift stores, garage sales and even dumpsters for lost gems. This year’s Found Footage Festival has been dubbed a “salute to weirdos” and will reach Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom on Nov. 25.

WiG recently spoke with Prueher about the collection, “cultural anthropology” and encounters with the weirdos the fest salutes.

You’re originally from Wisconsin, right?

I’m from Stoughton, outside of Madison. 

Is that where you and Joe stumbled across the training video outside of McDonald’s?

Exactly. I was working at McDonald’s there in high school. It’s a training video for McDonald’s janitors that I found in the break room. It was covered in dust because nobody really watched it. It was remarkable. I snuck it home in my backpack and it became a cult thing among my friends. 

What was it specifically about that video that made you want to collect more?

Whenever a video raises more questions than it answers, that’s what we’re looking for. That was the very first one where it was like, “Wait a minute. This is a multi-billion dollar corporation and this is the best that they can do?” It’s this trainee’s first day on the job and he just couldn’t wait to go clean the bathrooms. There’s this overly perky crew trainer. There’s sexual tension between the trainer and the trainee. It’s just one of those videos where we became obsessed.

How did you and Joe meet and when did your fascination with VHS tapes start?

We had a mutual friend in the sixth grade. We met and we had a slumber party at his house. I remember specifically watching Small Wonder, which was a terrible syndicated show about a robot little girl in the ’80s. We were in tears at how bad this show was. We loved to hate it and watch it ironically. 

What are some of the best places you and Joe have found videos?

When you know you’re looking for VHS tapes, they turn up in weird places. I’ve found them in a dumpster behind my apartment building while I was taking out the trash. I’ve happened to find them on the street lying on the ground. Joe took a job at a Suncoast Video because he heard they had horrible training videos. He took the job just so he can get the training videos. He dubbed them all at home, turned them in the next day and then quit the job. 

I’ve read that you and Joe encourage fans to send tapes your way.

About once a week in the mail, we get a package and it’s always a gift that keeps on giving. The only frustrating part about our job is that we can’t be everywhere. Some thrift stores aren’t even accepting VHS donations because nobody is buying them. It’s heartbreaking to think that some of these will just be lost for the ages or they’ll end up in a landfill somewhere. 

During the fest, you and Joe provide “where-are-they-now” updates on people featured in the videos. How much time does it take to track these people down?

Usually they’re fairly easy to find because they’re in the phonebook or they’re online. Sometimes, on the occasion that we can’t find somebody, we’d hire a private detective.

In this particular show, we get obsessed with this weirdo who hosted a pet advice college show from Long Island in the ’90s. He would just bring pets from this pet store onto this little table and take viewer calls about pet care. But these pets that he has on this table should not be together, like a snapping turtle and a chinchilla or a cat and a lizard. They’re always after each other, fighting, always knocking things over or falling off the table. It’s chaos, but you can’t look away. 

Have you had any strange or bad experiences with some of these people?

The one close call we had was this guy named Frank Pacholski. He said he’s from Milwaukee, but I don’t know if that’s true. He’s living out in California now. He made a public access show where he dances in a Speedo in a Lone Ranger mask in front of a semi-circle of elderly people who don’t want to be there. 

We flew all the way to Los Angeles to interview him and he had all of these demands about the interview. It had to be on the beach. It had to be on the Santa Monica Pier. We were like, “OK, whatever.” We get there and whatever he’s doing, he’s convinced he’s doing art. We tried to joke around and he was not having it. We couldn’t get to the bottom of what this was all about and he said, “I want my manager to meet you.” We went there to meet the manager about a half-hour later and it’s him, but he’s dressed in a three-piece suit. He maintained that he was a different person through the entirety of our interview. This guy was a real deal weirdo. 

The theme to this year’s tour is “Salute to the Weirdos.” What’s the meaning behind the tour name?

We don’t really pick out videos around a theme. We just pick out the one that make us laugh. With a lot of the videos, we noticed a pattern (this year): All of them, or the good ones anyway, involved some weirdo who is in front of the camera or behind the camera making the decisions. That’s really what makes life interesting and I think that’s why we’re so drawn to these amateur productions. If you’re watching the polished version on TV, it’s boring. We like imperfections and weirdos bring those out in full force. We’re paying tribute to them by picking out the greatest weirdos from 20-plus years of collecting VHS.

In the past, your work has been called “cultural anthropology.” Would you agree?

I think we’re definitely excavating artifacts from a bygone era. You’re seeing some of the unvarnished history. AFI has put out a list of the greatest movies of the last 50 years, (but) it’s a pretty incomplete picture of who we are as people. If you’re looking at exercise videos, people’s home movies, training videos and other things that aren’t meant to be shown in public, that’s a more complete picture of who we are. 

What can fans expect from the upcoming show in Milwaukee?

There’s going to be some full-frontal male nudity, so that’s something that they can really look forward to. I always look forward to going back to Wisconsin because a lot of our videos come from there. A lot of my friends and family are from there. And I love Turner Hall. That’s why I’m excited to be back home for the holiday and bring these videos back to where they all started. 

ON STAGE

The Found Footage Festival will take place at 8 p.m. on Nov. 25 at Turner Hall Ballroom, 1040 N. Fourth St., Milwaukee. Tickets are $12 and can be ordered at 414-286-3663 or pabsttheater.org.

House to hold Planned Parenthood hearing Sept. 9

The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled Congress’ first hearing on the Planned Parenthood videos for next week. And the title they’re using leaves little doubt about where Republicans who run Congress stand.

The committee says the Sept. 9 session will be the first of several hearings called “Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider.”

Abortion foes have released nine furtively recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials and others describing how they furnish aborted fetus tissue to researchers. 

The committee says it is investigating whether Planned Parenthood has violated a federal prohibition against a procedure abortion foes call partial-birth abortion. 

Planned Parenthood officials say they’ve done nothing illegal. An organization official, Dawn Laguens, says they know little about the hearing “beyond its provocative title.”

Las Vegas’ new ad campaign pushes ‘sexy’ watering habits

Another part of the drought-ridden West is attempting to make water conservation sexy, this time with funny ads in Las Vegas.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority this week launched a campaign on television, radio, print and social media themed: “There’s Nothing Sexier Than Saving Water.” The ads were developed by R&R Partners, the firm behind Vegas’ most famous tagline: “What Happens Here, Stays Here.”

The new advertisements depict people adjusting watering clocks as people ogle with lust. It coincides with the new fall restrictions that began this week, which through Oct. 31 limits watering to three days a week and prohibits sprinklers during the day and misting systems at businesses.

In June, San Francisco officials also unveiled sexy ads, which urged residents to go “full-frontal” and take short, steamy showers.

Spokesman Scott Huntley said the new Las Vegas campaign was developed over the last year and that Nevada officials were not aware of San Francisco’s recent ads.

He said the Nevada water agency has for years done two-week long “compliance” promotions during the seasonal transitions, using humorous messages to remind users to be complaint. Violators are first given warnings before fines start at $100, exceeding $1,000 for repeat offenders.

The advertising, which cost about $1.6 million annually, is a part of the longstanding effort to plug water conservation in the desert area that has been in drought for years.

“We were the first to the game on this. We’ve had a tremendous amount of success that’s being emulated in other places,” Huntley said.

The previous “Don’t Make Us Ask You Again” theme was used for eight years in Vegas and featured male-centric slapstick humor because research showed that the typical household water controller was, according to Huntley, a “Joe Six Pack,” or a man in his late 20s to 50s.

And perhaps as proof that sex sells to everyone, Huntley said the new ads were made to also target expanding demographics, including those who are older and more diverse and female.

“There are certainly things that grab people’s attention and humor does it a lot and one of the primary aspects of humor is the sexual humor, the sexy humor — that’s one of the basics,” Huntley said.