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Monday, Sep 29, 2014
Almost 50,000 people gathered in Central Park for the 3rd Annual Global Citizen Festival, a star-studded affair that draws attention to extreme poverty with world leaders pledging funds for relief.

The scope of the Global Citizen Festival remains the same as it did for the prior two iterations, to mitigate extreme poverty worldwide though this year the organizers directed additional attention to the subjects of vaccines, education and sanitation. Regarding sanitation, there was a lot of attention directed towards open defecation, a huge issue in India in particular. Amongst the global leaders in attendance (as the festival is timed to coincide with world leaders being in New York for the U.N. Global Summit) was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi had been implicated as one of the instigators of religious violence against Muslims (by Hindus) in Gujurat in 2002 where he was Chief Minister at the time. And he hadn’t been permitted to enter the United States from that point on, until he became elected Prime Minister in 2014 so he was given a moment at the festival to pledge that Indians citizens will have access to toilets by 2019. Other world leaders were present, including Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who pledged over $1.2 billion towards vaccinations worldwide over the next several years, and some NGO leaders including World Bank President Jim Kim and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.


But for many of nearly 50,000 people in attendance at the six hour event, including one girl who drove up from Tennessee, the primary attraction was not actor Hugh Jackman introducing Ban Ki-Moon or Olivia Wilde talking about her recent charitable endeavors, but the powerful and diverse line-up of musicians. Via an online lottery, for which people earned entries by completing socially conscious activities, the lucky people in attendance got to see performances from Jay Z and Beyonce, No Doubt (their first show in a couple of years) do a set with Sting guesting for one song, Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys with Idan Raichel, The Roots and more. The concert was available as a stream online or live on MSNBC (with noticeable delay) for those that couldn’t go, but given the opportunity to be out on Central Park on a lovely summery day, Global Citizen Festival was a perfect outing… if you could get in (VIP ticket holders complained of long lines). It may be hard to determine what the attendees’ motives were but if they were genuine, but if even a small percentage of them feel urged to donate, or be more socially active that is a good start.


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Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014
Afropunk Fest felt more politically charged this year. People had their hands in the air as a tribute to Michael Brown nearly as often as they did for the performers.

The atmosphere at the 2014 Afropunk Festival was permeated by the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri (namely the death of Michael Brown) and last month’s chokehold-related death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. People had their hands in the air as a tribute to Michael Brown nearly as often as they did for the performers. In correlation, the (what seemed to me to be) higher police presence at the fest didn’t impede any of the fun, nor did the weather for the most part. Saturday was a bit overcast and there was a light rain for a bit which may have been enough to keep some of the crowds away—Sunday was extraordinarily tight when the sun was out in full force. Photos from much of Saturday (I didn’t stay for Sharon Jones partly because I caught her earlier this year and part of Sunday (D’Angelo with the Roots headlined but photographers weren’t allowed in the pit and he started an hour late) are below. Other notable moments were seeing Mayor de Blasio on site for Bad Brains set and Cold Specks unfortunately not performing due to visa issues.


Check out a larger gallery of higher-res images over on Facebook!


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Thursday, Jul 17, 2014
When you live in a cutting-edge state where marijuana is legal, it’s easy to forget how far behind so much of America still is.
Photo courtesy of Gregory M. Schwartz


With marijuana having been legalized in Colorado and Washington state, there were activists who decided it was high time to go for legalization in the nation’s capital. Hence, the D.C. Cannabis Campaign was launched this spring to collect the signatures to get Voter Initiative #71 on the fall ballot in the District of Columbia.


When members of the campaign feared that they might not obtain the 22,373 valid signatures from registered District voters by the 7 July deadline, organizers sought to bring in reinforcements from afar. A handful of activists from California and other distant states soon took up residence at the campaign’s headquarters on Embassy Row to help push the initiative over the top.


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Friday, Feb 21, 2014
With the release of The LEGO Movie, one can make a case that the brand understands the limitations of creating specific scenes and sets but hasn't given up on a child's imagination.

With their movie at the top of the box office two weeks in a row now, LEGO debuted their Ghostbusters themed set at Toy Fair 2014 this past week and also had their set based on The Simpsons on display. The former is possibly a one-off product in the license as it in the CUUSOO line, a consumer voted on project whose last set was Back to the Future related, while the latter is expected to be bigger given that Milhouse appears in The LEGO Movie and the 550th episode of The Simpsons to air in May will be animated using the “highly sophisticated interlocking brick system”. According to EW, in the episode entitled ““Brick Like Me”, Homer wakes up in a world where his family and everyone in Springfield are made of Legos.”


While you wait for the episode, you can view some of the new toys below, including a Star Wars Rebel line. We unfortunately couldn’t get pictures of figures related to the Michael Bay TMNT movie or Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy or Minecraft, but expect those to be on the way in the near future.


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Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012
The biggest pop culture gathering in North America kicks off Wednesday night. How has Comic-Con responded to last year's problems, and what are the most interesting events taking place at this year's show?

Hollywood invaded Comic-Con International (the official name of the San Diego Comic-Con) back around the turn of the 21st century, bringing in movie stars to promote upcoming genre films. But it wasn’t until the opening of the 6,500-seat Hall H in 2004 that the show truly arrived as the center of the pop culture universe. The convention was already in the middle of an attendance explosion, but Hall H and the major movie studios helped drive it to its current overstuffed situation, where 130,000-plus squeeze into the San Diego Convention Center every July.


Comic-Con’s status as the biggest pop culture gathering in North America brought with it a host of problems that it didn’t face when it was merely the biggest comic book show in North America. They’ve had to address things like how to deal with thousands of people trying to get hotel rooms at the same time, how to move tens of thousands of people through the registration process quickly, and where to situate the lines for the various panel rooms without blocking hallways or running into other lines. To the convention’s credit, they’ve worked hard to deal with these issues as they’ve arisen. Usually, they aren’t the sort of things that can be fixed on the fly, so longtime attendees eagerly look forward to the release of the Comic-Con schedule (around two weeks before the show) to see what’s changed for the upcoming convention. And yes, also to plan what awesome stuff we’re going to see at the show.


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