Johanna Blakley

Media | Entertainment | Fashion

Archive for July, 2011

Copyright Protection Still a Possibility for the Fashion Industry

Kate Middleton's dress, on the right, is strikingly similar to the one worn by another royal, Isabella Orsini, two years earlier.

I suspect you didn’t happen to see the House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Friday about granting copyright protection to the fashion industry (check out my TED talk about why this is a terrible idea.) There was very little publicity about it, and even though the terribly cute and much-beloved Lazaro Hernandez testified, I didn’t see any significant coverage emerge in the trades (or more importantly) on Twitter.

But you may have seen this little piece in the New York Times about it, which got me roaring with laughter. In it, reporter Eric Wilson mentions that Steven Kolb, the executive director of the Council for Fashion Designers of America, the key sponsor of this bill, said that Kate Middleton’s wedding dress would be a good example of the type of “original” design that would be protected if this bill were to pass. In this version of the bill, designers could sue other designers who make “substantially identical” designs to their own.

Ironically enough, Sarah Burton, the designer of Kate Middleton’s dress, could very well have been sued when several outlets revealed her dress’ striking similarity to the one worn for another royal wedding two years before. Read the rest of this entry »


Let Me Infotain You

Click on the image to see an animated version of this art by Sykotik Scarecrow.

In April of this year, I attended Fractal’11, a truly unique conference in Medellin, Colombia, that explored the convergence of fiction, art, science and technology. The event was the perfect forum for me to talk about my winding career path, which began in an English PhD program, meandered through a Web start-up and an international multimedia company and deposited me, quite happily at the Norman Lear Center

One of the many fascinating themes of the conference (I explored several others here) was the appeal of infotainment, material that serves two seemingly unrelated purposes: to occupy attention agreeably (as the Oxford English Dictionary defines “entertainment”) and to transmit practical information that may just contribute to your survival. 

My talk about Entertainment as Virtual Reality focused on the ways in which entertainment – catchy pop songs, video games, movies, opera, toys, etc. – could be understood as simulations, little virtual reality machines that allow us to test our ideas about the world in safe, artificial spaces. Regardless of how distracting a cultural object may be, it is also a powerful transmitter of information about our world, and it can have a surprisingly profound impact on our lives well outside the movie theater, concert hall or American Girls store. Read the rest of this entry »

Death & Dying in the Movies

My seventeen year-old cat died a week and a half ago and so I found myself in need of some cinema therapy.

I’ve always argued that people who think of entertainment as simply escapist fare are not being honest with themselves. Yes, we use entertainment in order to check-out of our present situations, but, quite inevitably, we step into another world, one with some pretty clear connections to the world we live in, and we can’t help but use the time we spend in those virtual realities (like movies and games and concerts) to test some of the premises that guide our lives outside the cineplex, game or concert hall.

Sex and death are the bread and butter of compelling storytelling, from The Odyssey to Avatar.  That tradition takes on new hues in Beginners, the new film by Mike Mills that features a thoroughly beguiling performance by Christopher Plummer, who plays a man in his mid-seventies who comes out as gay. Through constantly shifting chronologies and flash backs, the film addresses his sexual awakening and his imminent death simultaneously, making both more poignant. We’re not allowed for one moment to think that this film isn’t about death (his son, played by Ewan McGregor, is packing up his father’s house as the film opens), but in my melancholic state, it was oddly comforting. I realized that what I was longing to escape from was not the subject of death, but my lonely slog through it. It was a relief not only to see other people grappling with it on screen, but to be among 100 strangers in a room who were going through the emotional obstacle course with me. Read the rest of this entry »