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Why ‘Respeto’ earned respect

Tackling social issues and Filipino traditions and culture, Respeto captured the essence of the problems of society affecting the people who are part of it.

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Screengrab from YouTube.

Respeto begins with a crowd cheering in a dim lit place, probably a warehouse somewhere in Pandacan, Manila. Two rappers are introduced and later on engage themselves into a rap battle by exchanging words, rhyme, and rhythm and ends with the rapper with the loudest cheer from the audience, winning the competition.

This establishes the highlight of the film: The art of words, rhyme, and rhythm.

Bagging four major awards in this year’s Cinemalaya, namely Best Film, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actor for Dido de la Paz, it is not a surprise that Respeto, directed by Treb Monteras II, turns out to be one of the most outstanding Filipino films that have been produced today.

Hendrix, played by Abra, is an aspiring rapper but due to his social status, he was forced to work as a drug mule under his sister’s drug pusher boyfriend, Mando (Brian Arda), who was up to no good. But despite the circumstances, Hendrix did not lose hope on pursuing to become a rapper and was truly supported by his friends, Betchai (Chai Fonacier) and Payaso (Yves Bagadion).

From time to time, Hendrix together with his friends would go to a rap battle gathering named Berso, where aspiring rappers come together to battle with impromptu verses. Short on cash, Hendrix uses Mando’s drug money to join the so-called gathering. Mando eventually finds out and tells Hendrix to pay him back or else he can’t come home. Desperate, Hendrix asked his friends to help him steal from Doc (Dido de la Paz), an old man who lives at the corner street who also owns a second-hand bookstore, and unfortunately, he and his friends were caught in the act. Unsuccessful with their plan, Hendrix and his friends were asked to repair everything they broke in Doc’s bookstore in exchange they would be free of charge. As the story unfolds, Hendrix and Doc’s relationship develops as Hendrix learns about Doc’s history as a writer and as a Martial Law victim.

One of the things that make this film enjoyable to watch is the humor that the characters show despite its heavy theme. There were scenes where Hendrix and his friends share a conversation about their neighbors one by one being killed because their involvement in the war on drugs, and in those conversations Payaso and Betchai would comment in a way how Filipinos would react despite the seriousness of the subject: Always with wittiness and pessimism. What makes it more likable is that how the characters deliver their lines naturally. Also, given it is a film about hip-hop and rap,what made it more enjoyable are the impromptu rap verses that were written by the cast themselves and the musical score by Jay Durias that made it stand out, as it sets the mood of the film which captivates the local hip-hop scene in the Philippines.

Another reason that makes Respeto as one of the best films produced is its social commentary on present issues in the country, specifically the war on drugs. As told, Hendrix and his friends talk about their neighbors who were killed because of the current administration’s Oplan Tokhang. It also reflected how the war on drugs affected the lives of people in the masses, as for Hendrix, his sister, and her boyfriend, they became drug mules or pushers because of poverty.

What made the film compelling is the use of elements of the old and the new. Focusing on the hip-hop scene in the Philippines and at the same time giving light on local poets and poetry, Monteras showed a different perspective on Philippine hip-hop rap battles by making it in parallel with poetry and the traditional Balagtasan. Also, the relationship between the old and the new was portrayed by Doc and Hendrix, both the embodiment of the traditional and modern. Though at extremes, Doc and Hendrix established a relationship as they learn from each other; Hendrix begins to be true to himself when it comes to his words in rapping as he spent time cleaning up Doc’s bookstore as Doc learns to open his closed doors, despite his past, to Hendrix and his friends. In the context of social issues, the film also showed the current and past issues of the country by paralleling the Martial Law period with the events under the current administration.

Tackling social issues and Filipino traditions and culture, it truly captured the essence of the problems of society affecting the people who are part of it, as portrayed by Hendrix and his friends.

Respeto reminds us of the reality there is for those people in the masses, especially the youth, that there are a lot of them who are undeniably talented but despite their situation, are not able to reach their goals and dreams. They are affected by the actions of society and become products of these problems as embodied by Hendrix and his friends. Not only it concerns the effect of these social issues on the youth, but also how it affected society as a whole. It showed how these people are shaped by circumstances in the society we live in, and how they would respond to it. As for Hendrix, he was affected by the war on drugs that mirrors Doc’s experience during the Martial Law regime which greatly affected him as a person.

Commenting and reflecting Philippine society and culture, I would give Respeto a 9/10 as I consider it as one of the best Filipino films made as it leaves you heavy-hearted, speechless and at the same time enlightened by its message.

by Hannah Arcenal

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Logan Paul and the murky standards of YouTube’s community guidelines

Logan Paul and PewDiePie’s controversial videos reflect YouTube’s crisis on content moderation.

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Logan Paul Vlogs/YouTube.

(UPDATED Jan. 12, 2 p.m.) Merely days into 2018, the Internet already found a new target for its outrage—and rightfully so.

YouTube star Logan Paul had his name all over headlines for the past few days due to a video about his trip to Aokigahara forest at the base of Mount Fuji (which he had confused with Fiji), notorious for its reputation among locals and tourists as Japan’s “suicide forest.”

In the since-deleted video, unsubtly titled We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest…, Paul and his friends found a body of a suicide victim hanging from a tree just a few kilometers into Aokigahara; however, instead of respectfully turning his camera off (or even cutting the footage from the final video), Paul continued filming, even repeatedly zooming in on the corpse’s face.

“This was supposed to be a fun vlog,” he said, before making fun of the victim while wearing a cartoonish green headwarmer. The group laughed and cracked jokes beside the body.

Paul might have thought the whole ordeal was funny; after all, he amassed a following of nearly 20 million (and mostly young) subscribers for performing challenges, stunts, and pranks wrapped in his brand of rowdy shock humor, and the controversial video was supposed to be a part of his Tokyo Adventures series, where the 22-year-old vlogger obviously staged various pranks.

In the following video, Paul and his friends ran around Tokyo as they yelled at strangers and walked in the middle of the metropolis carrying a dead fish and an octopus tentacle.

 

 

In another, Paul engaged in downright cultural appropriation and disrespect (a fact he actually acknowledged during the video) by wearing traditional garbs and even going as far as washing his hands with holy water in a temple. The group was later kicked out of the temple, and their Japanese tour guide could be seen apologizing to authorities on their behalf.

 

 

These videos are still up on Paul’s channel. Nonetheless, the 22-year-old deleted the graphic video less than 24 hours after it was uploaded as outrage began pouring in from the YouTube community and the general public—but not before it was viewed 6.3 million times, even earning the 10th spot in YouTube’s trending list.

In a lengthy apology posted on his Twitter account, Paul said that he “didn’t do it for views” and that his intention was”to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention” (the controversial video was not monetized).

However, his efforts to “raise awareness” by including suicide prevention hotlines and disclaimers in the video were slammed by various netizens, YouTubers, and personalities as hypocritical at best and self-praising at worst, considering how Japan seriously deals with cultural norms and its high suicide rate.

Nonetheless, Paul’s video is not the first YouTuber to face outrage on the platform for producing content that explicitly violated community guidelines.

His rival, Felix Kjellberg, more popularly known as PewDiePie, also faced similar backlash February last year for paying two Indian freelancers to dance while holding a banner that read “Death to all Jews”—a clear violation of YouTube’s guidelines on hateful content.


Is YouTube slowly losing its grasp on the content being uploaded to the platform or are they no longer firm in safeguarding their audience?


Kjellberg retorted in an apology letter on Tumblr saying that the stunt was simply a joke overblown by the media and that it was only meant to show “how crazy the modern world is.” However, a report by The Wall Street Journal noted that anti-Semitic and Nazi imagery and references were present in at least nine of his videos since August 2016; neo-Nazi groups and white supremacist sites such as The Daily Stormer were already praising Kjellberg for his use of Nazi imagery, despite some of his followers defending his jokes as mere “satire.”

Both Paul and Kjellberg share almost the same brand of shock-inducing, absurdist humor masked as satire, which has become an increasingly ubiquitous part of YouTuber culture. While both of them faced consequences such as termination of partnerships and the removal of their channels from YouTube’s preferred-advertising service, it is safe to say that these controversies will only become mere blunders in their careers: Kjellberg continues to have a strong following, and Paul’s subscriber count had only increased by 600,000 in the past week.

Various users, during the time the video was still up, flagged the video as it obviously violated YouTube’s community standards and guidelines on violent and graphic content, which explicitly says “it’s not okay to post violent or gory content that’s primarily intended to be shocking, sensational, or disrespectful.”

A spokesperson from YouTube confirmed the violation but did not comment on whether Paul’s channel was given a strike or if they have manually reviewed the video (as of press time, Paul’s channel was already given one); other users who reposted Paul’s video in their own channels, however, were given strikes—and according to YouTube’s policies, channels that receive three strikes within three months are removed from the platform.

While Paul has subsequently apologized again in a video, YouTube has seemingly addressed the backlash through a Twitter thread last Jan. 10, saying that they were taking steps “to ensure a video like this is never circulated again.” They did not, however, disclose the specific steps they would take.

However, it is now necessary to ask why the Internet’s leading video sharing platform allows content that violates its own guidelines to stay and proliferate within the platform. Is YouTube slowly losing its grasp on the content being uploaded to the platform or are they no longer firm in safeguarding their audience? On both questions, perhaps not—and, if anything, YouTube is very much as culpable as its creators.

It is important to note that while the video was repeatedly reported to YouTube, it was Paul who took it down eventually—not moderators. Furthermore, according to a member of YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program, the video was manually reviewed and moderators decided that it should remain on the platform—even without an age restriction.

Even Kjellberg’s video remained accessible during the height of the controversy according to a report by Time Magazine, despite initial reports that the video was already removed (it is now unavailable).

These controversies highlight YouTube’s long-running crisis on content moderation, on how it moderates and censors the content of its top creators (if YouTube actually does), and on how it plays favorites and double standards, and how the platform tacitly encourages the production of provocative, offensive, or extremist content that would surely garner millions of views—and these views would inevitably translate to advertising revenue.


… if anything, YouTube is very much as culpable as its creators.


For one, Kjellberg’s Nazi references staying under the radar for so long only goes to show how YouTube is willing to bend its own rules for creators that get millions of views and make profit for the platform. A piece from The New York Times puts it plainly: “The YouTube platform plainly incentivizes such attention-grabbing behavior.”

The piece also considered how YouTube “is considerably and deliberately less hands-on with its talents” and YouTube might be more than willing to use this to wash their hands from any responsibility; however, Paul is a high-profile collaborator. He is set to star in a film produced by YouTube’s premium tier, YouTube Red, much like how Kjellberg starred in the tier’s Scare PewDiePie series before its second season was cancelled following Kjellberg’s controversy.

While YouTube has put its collaborations with Paul on hold, his Tokyo Adventures videos are still reportedly making as much as 90,000 dollars from views, according to analysts, in stark contrast to how YouTube responded to Kjellberg and other creators—and it all comes down to advertisers.

Last year, advertisers threatened to boycott YouTube as they discovered that their advertisements ran in videos “promoting terrorism and anti-Semitism,” according to a report from TechCrunch. YouTube began demonetizing videos—including innocent channels—in what became known as the first “adpocalypse,” and these continued following the discovery of inappropriate content running in YouTube’s standalone children-oriented app, YouTube Kids, by taking advantage of the platform’s algorithms.

In order to combat the loopholes in its algorithms, YouTube announced just last month that it would hire 10,000 human moderators to police content, punish creators that violate guidelines, and make sure that advertisements run alongside content that advertisers deem appropriate for their brands.

The platform now seemed ready to come clean—but Paul’s controversial video showed that YouTube is still not ready after all.

Perhaps, unlike neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism, advertisers do not care about Paul’s insensitive mistake on making fun of suicide, he even allegedly monetized his own apology video (the controversial video was not), and there are no threats from advertisers to boycott the platform.

Ironically (or perhaps not), even Kjellberg called Paul a “jackass” and “a straight-up sociopath,” with the video “[encompassing] everything wrong with YouTube, the clickbait, the sensationalism”—and he is not entirely wrong: If anything, Kjellberg only echoed what other YouTubers have been saying all along (it is also important to note that Kjellberg does not want Paul’s channel to be taken down.

If YouTube cannot violate the editorial independence of its content creators, then this leaves the public to pressure YouTube to revise or clarify its community guidelines, uphold policies and strengthen their enforcement, and give more transparency in handling reports and complaints.

However, its complex ecosystem of algorithms, moderators, and corporate interests—and how they exactly work to enforce community guidelines despite their inherent contradictions—is still up for debate.

Nonetheless, the call still stands: YouTube needs to let go of its profitability for once and own up for its complicity in the mistakes of its creators—and, of course, punish them accordingly.

by Antoine Kyle Balo


EDITOR’S NOTE: The article has been updated to reflect YouTube’s responses and actions regarding the controversy.

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Finals week is dark and full of terrors — and here’s how to survive it

Fight your way through the Long Night (or long, sleepless nights) with these five useful tips.

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At one point, we were a stressed Samwell Tarly — maybe even now. Photo courtesy of HBO.

Finals week has finally arrived in UST, a.k.a. ’tis the season for an awful lot of stress, all-nighters, and mugs and mugs of coffee.

With exams, theses, reports, and plates charging from all directions, it’s even becoming harder to tell if the students roaming the campus are still students or if they have already turned into soulless White Walkers.

The finals week is dark and full of terrors, but if you want to survive it, here are some tips on how you can combat it head-on.

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Lord Baelish once said: “Chaos isn’t a pit; chaos is a ladder” —and to avoid falling from that ladder, you have to armor up as you charge down the finals battlefield. Prepare all your notes, your pens and highlighters, and most importantly, prepare yourself in every possible aspect — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Drink coffee — but not too much

Coffee is almost every student’s best friend, but if the tragedy of the Red Wedding ever taught us anything, drinking too much can be deadly, whether it be wine or coffee. Yes, sleepless nights pay off most of the time but continued sleep deprivation negatively affects the health. If you’re not a fan of coffee, tea and chocolate can help you stay up late.

Discover more effective studying techniques

Studying is not just printing PowerPoint slides or rereading your notes: Techniques such as highlighting, rewriting notes, using flashcards can prove effective. Don’t be like Jon Snow who knows nothing; try to discover the best techniques that work best for you.

Have a break in-between your study sessions

Twenty minutes is adequate; it’s plenty enough time to walk around or maybe do some stretching. Also, having breaks in between can prevent sleepiness, just don’t make the break long like a Game of Thrones’s season break.

And of course, pray

Whether it be to God — or to the old gods and the new — seeking help and guidance from forces above can help lessen the burden of stress pushing down; and of course, there is nothing wrong with asking for a little extra help.

Remember, the semester finale is approaching and there are only few days left to save your grades. The finals week may be dark and full of terrors, but you can survive (and defeat) the Long Night by putting on your extra, staying positive and hoping for the best — after all, Paskuhan is coming!

by Danielle Arcegono

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Behind the creepypasta: The Internet’s horror stories

Are you reading a creepypasta right now?

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The Slenderman, who emerged as an image in a forum at the comedy site Something Awful, is regarded as the mascot of the creepypasta phenomenon. Photo by Victor Surge.

Last April, the story of a particular “Lucia Joaquin” made rounds on Facebook.

The crudely-written story, almost entirely in the form of a chat exchange, details an online interaction between a certain Enzo Cruz and Lucia Joaquin, whom he just added on Facebook.

Their conversation starts off innocuously: Lucia flirts with Enzo, and Enzo willfully obliges with Lucia’s request for pictures, even requesting that they take a picture together despite the fact that they had just known each other.

Later on, and to Enzo’s horror, he finds a picture of himself in his bedroom on Lucia’s Facebook profile — with Lucia laying just right beside him.

Of course, the story is obviously fictional. Was it scary? Probably. The story seemed believable enough.

Perhaps, it is why the post has garnered around 68,000 reactions and more than 26,000 shares as of press time. These statistics do not even include the screenshots and copies of the story circulating on Facebook and other platforms such as Twitter, even the memes generated by the story.

The story of Lucia Joaquin is not new, nor is it the only one. Lucia Joaquin is just part of a large phenomenon known as “creepypasta” — Internet horror stories — and the Internet gives birth to millions of new creepypastas everyday.

It is still unclear how the phenomenon specifically started, or with which specific story it started.

The term, more or less, is pretty much known to come from “copypasta” — a portmanteau of “copy” and “paste” —and is used in message boards like 4chan for text, videos, and images copied-and-pasted across forums.

Creepypasta is basically copypasta’s horror genre.

Researchers often draw comparisons with creepypastas and other narrative forms such as folklore and urban legends; and clearly, the phenomenon is deeply influenced by these narrative traditions. However, what various studies are sure of is that the creepypasta is a phenomenon that could only emerge from — and thrive in — the Internet.

While it has taken on various narrative forms and media as it became increasingly popular, the creepypasta had its humble beginnings on chain messages.

One of the most popular — and most enduring — chain messages is about the vengeful spirit of one Carmen Winstead, popularly dubbed They Hurt Her; a ghost story cum cautionary tale on bullying, including specific instructions to pass the story on and horrifying consequences for those who will refuse to pass it.

No one knows who wrote the message, nor can the original message be traced — and even now, no one has claimed authorship of the message.

Nonetheless, despite various experts disproving the accounts detailed by the chain message for lack of police records and evidence, it persists to be shared up to this day — either out of belief in and fear of the story, or simply for the sake of entertainment.

The obscurity and ambiguity of credible details, combined with just enough tinge of familiarity and possibility, is one of the trademark characteristics of the creepypasta.

Will Wiles, who has written about the phenomenon in his essay ‘Creepypasta’ is how the internet learns our fears, says that this is basically the goal of the creeypasta — and also largely the reason for its popularity: “Creepypasta aspires to be urban legend: dark social memes with just enough familiarity to give a frisson of awful possibility.”

The creepypasta, however, would only begin to gain mainstream popularity with the birth of Slenderman.

Slenderman first appeared in a series of images in 2006, in a forum at the comedy site Something Awful, where users were instructed to create paranormal images. Victor Surge (real name Eric Knudsen)’s creation — a tall, faceless figure in a suit linked to alleged child abductions — quickly became a hit as the character expanded into an entire mythos, with other users adding more stories and accounts related to the Slenderman.

Spawning video games, films, YouTube series, and even a real-life murder, Slenderman has proven to be creepypasta’s most popular child and effectively becoming the phenomenon’s de facto mascot.

Nonetheless, outside the rather overblown sphere of the Slenderman mythos, creepypastas as narratives are best known for dealing with man’s relationship with everyday technology. Often-used examples include stories about cursed video games, lost television show episodes, ritual-games, and corrupted files passed and downloaded over the Internet.

Like the story of Lucia Joaquin, the most intriguing of creepypastas specifically tap into possibilities of the supernatural haunting the deep recesses of the cyberspace, manifesting before people as their everyday lives become more and more intertwined with technology.

Interestingly enough, these stories do not purely exist in text: More often than not, a reader would find several images, videos, and even audio clips attached or linked within the text to serve as evidence for the story.

Creepypastas then become immersive, multimedia narratives— a feat that could not be achieved by oral narrative traditions such as folklore and urban legends; the stories then become believable despite questionable origins or even obvious lack of credibility.

The most popular post in the Reddit thread r/NoSleep, My dead girlfriend keeps messaging me on Facebook. I’ve got the screenshots. I don’t know what to dois a good example. Not only does the post include screenshots; The screenshots include actual pictures, and the user who posted the story continuously updates his account in the comments.

Unlike fake news articles that are meant to fool readers, creepypastas explicitly demand the reader’s suspension of disbelief.

However, with convincing evidences attached, the story leaves almost no room for disproving — taking readers from mere suspension of disbelief to the chilling fear of realizing that the stories are indeed possible.

And like any relatable content, the share button is for everyone to press. Thus, the digital campfire keeps burning.

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