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Greg Veis, YouTube Hunter: Election Day Edition

Some people call it Election Day; I call it Christmas. Network news anchors nattering on with hardly anything substantive to report for hours, until they spin into the Realm of the Truly Weird around 1 a.m.; endless refreshes on Talking Points Memo, Drudge, and Mystery Pollster; breathless phone calls to anyone who shares my excitement about the likely outcome of Arizona's Eighth District -- yeah, I'll say it: better than sex.

Why? Because Election Day, like coitus, is all about the build-up, and Midterms '06 have been marked with a red circle on many a political junkie's calendar since November 2, 2004. We -- the few, the moderately proud, the socially awkward -- have been pouring over poll data for months, and before there were polls, or even challengers, we were acting as if each event in the news cycle brimmed with the significance of the cosmos.

And have no doubt: YouTube has been instrumental in feeding this obsession. Advertisements and gaffes, speeches and slurs... they have found an immediate and permanent home on the website -- and the political process has been permanently changed for it. (Whether that's a good thing or not is an open question I might address in the future, but, for now, this is a place to start.) So, now, let's recap the midterm that was by scanning through the video clips that had the most impact on this, our first YouTube election.

Strangest Channeling of a Movie Character for Electoral Gain
Easy: David Strathairn, as Edward R. Murrow, in support of House challenger Kristen Gillibrand.

I don't find the ad to be effective -- a little too put-on for my taste -- but this other ad for Gillibrand's campaign (although not by her campaign) is a classic, mocking her opponent's appearance at a recent Union College frat party. (Awesome photographic evidence of that, too. Check out the guy ripping a jay-bird in the top right):

Most Emotionally Fraught Issue
Embryonic stem cell research. Of course, this issue brought us Michael J. Fox's advertisements, which were the most visually arresting of the cycle. No amount of FX wizardry could match the gut-punch of watching him writhe uncontrollably while expressing his support for certain Democratic candidates. One last time, here he is supporting Ben Cardin in Maryland (and note how he explicitly references George W. Bush, something he wasn't able to do for Claire McCaskill in the redder state of Missouri):

This, however, is a very effective counterpunch from the campaign of Cardin's opponent, Michael Steele, who might just pull off an upset victory today. Keep an eye out...

The last ad I'll show that hits on stem cell research is different in that it employs actors spelling out hypothetical situations -- but it's no less powerful.

Most Incendiary Advertisement
Yep, the race-baiting ad the RNC ran against Harold Ford in Tennessee, which reminded some people of the GOP's infamous "Southern Strategy:"

In fairness, though, Ford cut an ad of his own that was so blatant in its religiousness (it's in a church, for chrissakes!) that, had a Republican aired it, all of Cambridge, Mass., would've put down their lattes as one and posted nasty, hateful things on their blogs:

Most Thematically Disjointed Campaign Promise
That would have to go to Cruz Bustamante, running for Insurance Commissioner of California. Let's get this straight, Cruz: because you ran in a marathon and lost weight, you're going to lower insurance rates. Riiiight...

Pol Whose Reputation Was Most Irrevocably Damaged By YouTube
George Allen, senator and former governor of Virginia, and, until recently, a leading contender for the 2008 Republican nomination for president. Until recently, you say? Yeah, largely due to YouTube, Mr. Macacawitz is a joke. Here's how our favorite $1.6 billion website took down a political heavyweight: in May, Ryan Lizza with The New Republic wrote a piece examining Allen's predilection for most things Dixie, despite a childhood spent on the tony edge of the west coast. Then, this happened...

... and then people came out of the woodwork saying that he used to drop the N-word into casual conversation, and then he said in a televised debate that asking if his mother was Jewish was tantamount to "making aspersions," and now, it looks as if he might lose to Jim Webb today. And even if he does manage to hang on, his future has dimmed significantly. The lesson to future campaigns? As this article persuasively argues: don't let YouTube clips reinforce previously held negative beliefs about a candidate. Easier said than done... especially when your pol is as skilled of a gaffe machine as Senator Allen.

Pol Whose Star Has Risen Almost Exclusively Because of YouTube's Influence
YouTube doesn't discriminate based on factual certainty or moral clarity; it's a place where those who speak in the highest volumes reach more eyeballs than they could've ever hoped to before. Which brings us to North Carolina Republican House challenger Vernon Robinson. He's been mentioned in this column before, and whew doggie, is he a nut. But before YouTube, he would've been a nut confined to the North Carolina 12th; now, he's raked in a pretty penny from outside his district and has become something of a cult hero because of hyperbolic and factually dubious ads like this:

Yet YouTube has its own internal fact-checking mechanisms as well, and this one, spearheaded most improbably by Sean Hannity, is a joy to watch:

Most Enjoyable Campaign Ad (Intellectual Dishonesty Category)
In this ad attacking House candidate Michael Arcuri, the National Republican Congressional Committee suggests that, well, just watch...

Hot, right? A little strange for the GOP to be showing something so racy given their frequent suggestions that smut like this is hurting our "American values?" Sure, but I like silhouetted naked chicks as much the next guy. Problem is, the phone call in question was a single misdial (by a single number) that cost New York taxpayers -- wait for it -- a buck and a quarter.

Strangest Apologies
No shortage here, this being the year of Mark Foley and the "botched joke" -- but these two, from Reps. Thomas Reynolds and Don Sherwood, were particularly striking. Reynolds was accused of sitting on the Foley emails for too long, hoping that they wouldn't put a safe seat in play. Oh, and Sherwood reportedly strangled his mistress during a back massage. This is his apology. Do these come close to being effective? What say you?

Best Ad
Screw real politicians. I'm voting for Jimmy Jones:

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10 Things We Know About The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2
Hulu
Hulu

Though Hulu has been producing original content for more than five years now, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for the streaming network with the debut of The Handmaid’s Tale on April 26, 2017. The dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, imagines a future in which a theocratic regime known as Gilead has taken over the United States and enslaved fertile women so that the group’s most powerful couples can procreate.

If it all sounds rather bleak, that’s because it is—but it’s also one of the most impressive new series to arrive in years (as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won, including eight Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards). Fortunately, fans left wanting more don’t have that much longer to wait, as season two will premiere on Hulu in April. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season.

1. IT WILL PREMIERE WITH TWO EPISODES.

When The Handmaid’s Tale returns on April 25, 2018, Hulu will release the first two of its 13 new episodes on premiere night, then drop another new episode every Wednesday.

2. MARGARET ATWOOD WILL CONTINUE TO HELP SHAPE THE NARRATIVE.

Fans of Atwood’s novel who didn’t like that season one went beyond the original source material are in for some more disappointment in season two, as the narrative will again go beyond the scope of what Atwood covered. But creator/showrunner Bruce Miller doesn’t necessarily agree with the criticism they received in season one.

“People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller told Newsweek. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. We're not going beyond the novel. We're just covering territory [Atwood] covered quickly, a bit more slowly.”

Even more importantly, Miller's got Atwood on his side. The author serves as a consulting producer on the show, and the title isn’t an honorary one. For Miller, Atwood’s input is essential to shaping the show, particularly as it veers off into new territories. And they were already thinking about season two while shooting season one. “Margaret and I had started to talk about the shape of season two halfway through the first [season],” he told Entertainment Weekly.

In fact, Miller said that when he first began working on the show, he sketched out a full 10 seasons worth of storylines. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this,” he said.

3. MOTHERHOOD WILL BE A CENTRAL THEME.

As with season one, motherhood is a key theme in the series. And June/Offred’s pregnancy will be one of the main plotlines. “So much of [Season 2] is about motherhood,” Elisabeth Moss said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child that’s growing inside her as a bit of a ticking time bomb, and the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And then, you know, if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. So, obviously, it’s very complicated and makes for good drama. But, it’s a very big part of this season, and it gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on.”

4. THE RESISTANCE IS COMING.

Just because June is pregnant, don’t expect her to sit on the sidelines as the resistance to Gilead continues. “There is more than one way to resist," Moss said. “There is resistance within [June], and that is a big part of this season.”

5. WE’LL GET TO SEE THE COLONIES.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

Miller, understandably, isn’t eager to share too many details about the new season. “I’m not being cagey!” he swore to Entertainment Weekly. “I just want the viewers to experience it for themselves!” What he did confirm is that the new season will bring us to the colonies—reportedly in episode two—and show what life is like for those who have been sent there.

It will also delve further into what life is like for the refugees who managed to escape Gilead, like Luke and Moira.

6. MARISA TOMEI WILL APPEAR IN AN EPISODE.

Though she won’t be a regular cast member, Miller recently announced that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will make a guest appearance in the new season’s second episode. Yes, the one that will show us the Colonies. In fact, that’s where we’ll meet her; Tomei is playing the wife of a Commander.

7. WE’LL LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF GILEAD.

As a group shrouded in secrecy, we still don’t know much about how and where Gilead began. That will change a bit in season two. When discussing some of the questions viewers will have answered, executive producer Warren Littlefield promised that, "How did Gilead come about? How did this happen?” would be two of them. “We get to follow the historical creation of this world,” he said.

8. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST ONE HANDMAID FUNERAL.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

While Miller wouldn’t talk about who the handmaids are mourning in a teaser shot from season two that shows a handmaid’s funeral, he was excited to talk about creating the look for the scene. “Everything from the design of their costumes to the way they look is so chilling,” Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “These scenes that are so beautiful, while set in such a terrible place, provide the kind of contrast that makes me happy.”

9. ELISABETH MOSS SAYS THE TONE WILL BE DARKER.

Like season one, Miller says that The Handmaid’s Tale's second season will again balance its darker, dystopian themes with glimpses of hopefulness. “I think the first season had very difficult things, and very hopeful things, and I think this season is exactly the same way,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There come some surprising moments of real hope and victory, and strength, that come from surprising places.”

Moss, however, has a different opinion. “It's a dark season,” she told reporters at TCA. “I would say arguably it's darker than Season 1—if that's possible.”

10. IT WILL ALSO BE BLOODIER.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

When pressed about how the teaser images for the new season seemed to feature a lot of blood, Miller conceded: “Oh gosh, yeah. There may be a little more blood this season.”

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NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
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Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

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