Wednesday, 15 January 2014

When we take that man there, and stick him in that box there...

Hey you. Let's talk about Shia LaBeouf.

We don't have to of course. Actually, it would probably be better if we didn't. Because if there's one thing that's become abundantly clear over the past couple of months it's that LaBeouf craves attention the same way Stannis Baratheon craves the Iron Throne (Gee Note: That's right. A Game of Thrones reference. I bet you're totally in to me now, right ladies?)

Problem is though, LaBeouf is a perfect example of (Gee Note: A bellend?) the power of social media. Now people mistakenly think that Facebook and Twitter are some sort of incredible marketing tool where you can reap insane rewards for next to no outlay. All you have to do is get something trending, watch as the shares and retweets flood the netsphere, and wake up the next morning buried under a pile of money. Hooray! Look at me! I'm rolling around in a nest of cash! Thank you interwebs!!!

The lesser spotted "I will stalk you online" bird. 

Except it doesn't work like that. Not really. Take the case of Sharknado. Syfy's (Gee Note: Eurgh. No matter what, typing out that stupid "rebranding" of SciFi still makes me want to kick someone in the nuts. Preferably whoever came up with it) made for TV creature feature about a - wait for it - tornado containing a shit load of sharks caused such a buzz online it was at one point generating 5000 tweets per minute. 5000 tweets. Per minute. Giant turtle monster Miley Cyrus Gamera could pop his head out of the ocean and announce he's signed a deal with Pepsi to promote his new reality show, and it wouldn't cause this much of a stir. Indeed, one would think that this type of mass publicity would lead to a healthy bump in ratings, and those advertising bucks would just come rolling in. Trebles all round for the folks at Syfy HQ, right?

Well, er no. Not at all in fact. Instead the film starring walking catastrophe Tara Reid and Ian "The-guy-from-Beverly-Hills-90210-who-wasn't-Jason-Priestly-or-Luke-Perry" Ziering, pulled in an anemic 1.4 million viewers for its premier, a shade under the equally dreadful but far less talked about "Chupacabra vs. The Alamo" which debuted earlier that year.

(Gee Note: It should be noted that Sharknado did actually set a Syfy ratings record for a repeat when it was aired for a third time a couple of months later, scoring 2.4 million of your human eyeballs. There's no real reason for this, other than ironic hipsters are quite easily entertained that is. Which is why I'm working on a pitch for my new series where Russell Brand sells second hand ukuleles to help raise money for some bullshit charity involving homeless pandas or something. Hispters love that kind of thing. You have my number Channel 4)

Nay fearless reader, the true power behind social media isn't to do with "monetizing your brand", "motivating your customer base", or any other nonsense phrase people in suits use to justify their position and disguise the fact that a raccoon on acid could do their job. It's much better than that.

You see, no matter how hard you try to hide it, eventually social media will out your true nature if you use it frequently enough. Especially if you happen to be a bit of dick.

It happens time and time again. From sulky, homophobic, talent contest winner James Arthur's public meltdown (Gee Note: Which was so spectacular his PR company had to ban him from using his own Twitter account), to IAC's Communication Director Justine Sacco getting fired over an insanely insensitive tweet about the African AIDS epidemic, getting exposed by posting something online any normal thinking person would balk at is like kryptonite to a dick. Even if it isn't that explosive, social media can still be quite damaging to one's self image. Bret Easton Ellis fans know this all too well, having seen their erudite and witty hero dissolve in to a bitter and spiteful shell of a man right in front of their eyes.

Which brings us back to Shia LaBeouf.

Shy and retiring Shia LaBeouf

Shia LaBeouf is a bellend (Gee Note: Called it). An A-Class, top of the line, no refunds policy bellend.

And I'm not saying this because he's a terrible actor, or because of his rough and rowdy past with the law, or because Indiana Jones and The Crystal Skull was yet another crushing blow to the cherished memories of my childhood. No, I'm saying this because over the past couple of weeks his twitter feed has been dedicated to one single subject. Plagirism.

It all started when "The Beef" (Gee Note: As no one calls him) attempted to branch out a wee bit creatively. And so he wrote and directed a short movie called Howard about a disillusioned movie critic, and entered it in to the Cannes Film Festival in May 2012. It received some positive feedback, with IndieWire in particular praising it as a "surprisingly successful movie". But despite that, live action short films aren't exactly in demand the world over and it quietly disappeared without a trace.

Still the former Mutt Williams (Gee Note: Arrrrrggghh. Seriously, is that hard to make a good Indy flick? Whips. Tombs. Daring do. "I hate snakes". It's not quantum physics. But no, instead we get a CGI gopher and a f***ing fridge. Stupid no good George Lucas. It's his fault. It's always his fault) had done himself proud with this mini opus, and there was some serious thought given to the idea that he might have an intriguing career ahead of him as a force behind the camera.

Well it did until some bright spark noticed that dear Shia had stolen it.

In 2008 Ghost World's Daniel Clowes wrote a comic called "Justin M. Damiano" for a charity anthology, a work LaBeouf claims "inspired" him. Problem is it appears to have "inspired" him so much that Howard contains a slew of identical lines, scenarios, and visuals found in Clowes work. So similar were they that the film, largely beloved up until that point, suffered a critical backlash the likes of which not seen since… er... well since the latest episode of Doctor Who (Gee Note: OMG1!!!1! I am sooooo done with this show!! Why can't Moffat write better scriptz!!1!!1).

Beefy McManstick, scrabbling for a defence, claimed that he "got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation" when called on it. Which would be fine except for the fact that Clowes is probably less annoyed about not being credited, than he is about NOT BEING PAID for someone else using his work.

And then, for reasons only known to the artist formerly known as Whitwicky and - oh - Cthulhu I guess, LaBeouf went on a passive aggressive tweeting tirade. First off he issued an apology to Clowes that he cribbed from Yahoo answers, probably thinking it was an oh-so-clever way of pulling the wool over the eyes of those less brilliant than he. When that too got rumbled he lost his shit completely, tweeting apologies pinched from Kanye West, Alec Baldwin, and Robert McNamara. When this obviously didn't get whatever response he was looking for, he picked fights with Patton Oswalt and Lena Dunham and posted a storyboard for a "new short" called 'Daniel Boring', blatantly ripping off Clowes comic "David Boring". This was too much even for Clowes, whose lawyers sent Shia a cease and desist notice. That in turn was duly scanned, copied, and posted on Twitter by the smug idiot.

Finally, having failed to convince the rest of the world that Shia LaBeouf is some sort of genius that exists on a higher intellectual plane than the rest of us mortals, the boy from Echo Park announced that "In light of the recent attacks against my artistic integrity, I am retiring from all public life." (Gee Note: RT if you shed a tear). Yet somehow this retirement doesn't stop him from continuing to tweet silly stuff like his attention seeking wank-athon "Meta-modernist Manifesto". It's like if Heidi Montag swallowed a thesaurus and somehow became even more tedious.

The thing is, I don't get it. I'm sure the ex-Disney Channel star has convinced himself of all sorts of things. He's a champion of justice. A true artist who knows that art should be set free, not contained in a box stamped with a corporate logo. That kind of crap. Hell, according to one his retweets he maybe even thinks that he's "parodied the modern absurdity of our fake apologies for developing the natural progression of art".

Sure. Whatevs dude. There's only one problem. You're not being a hero. You're being a prick.

Because despite all the flouncing and moaning, it all boils down to one simple thing. LaBeouf stole someone elses work and passed it off as his own. Then rather than own up and attempt to make amends, he complained that it's the system that's broken. But it's not. You're just an asshole Shia. And now it's obvious to everyone, thanks to social media.

It's a shame though. Social media could be used for far nobler goals than celebs making tools of themselves. For example, we could use it to find time travelers.

Or at least that's what Robert J Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson - two physicists at Michigan Tech - believe.

Sauron. Keeping it real.

According to their paper "Searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers" submitted on 26th Dec 2013, Nemiroff and Wilson have spent a considerable amount of time scouring the world wide web for (Gee Notes: Pictures of cats. And porn. Because scientists are just like you and me. Except not as sexy) Marty McFly and his Delorean. By searching Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Bing (Gee Note: See? Somebody actually uses Bing) this plucky pair of future hunters were confident that should any time bending mofo's be kicking it out there, they could be identified using only a keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

"But how would this be possible?!?!? And why are you rifling through my trash??!?" I hear you cry. Well according to the brave boffins spotting a time traveler is notoriously tricky. Even everyone's favourite physicist they've heard of Stephen Hawking had a tough time catching these elusive folks, as noted in the paper. Apparently Hawking once held a party but only sent the invitations AFTER the event itself, hoping John Connor would appear and partake in some small talk over h'orderves. Shockingly no one turned up (Gee Note: There ain't no party like a Stephen Hawking party, because a Stephen Hawking party is empty).

So a new plan was devised. One that didn't involve being lonely and sad. It was decreed that - much like that old proverb - instead of bringing Mohammed to the mountain, Mohammed would instead look at the mountain using Google Earth. There was to be a two pronged attack. First time travel from the past to today was discounted, as in all probability if someone had invented a time machine before now we'd have probably heard about it (Gee Note: Unless they only used it to travel back to the 1950's so they can french kiss their own mother and invent rock 'n' roll. Which, I think we can all agree, would be pretty weird).

Instead some hardcore searching had to be done, looking for specific phrases posted online that would show prescient knowledge of future events. Nemiroff and Wilson decided to look up people using the terms "Pope Francis" and "Comet ISON" on social media networks before there was either a shooting star or any white smoke in the sky. Pope Francis because… he's a new Pope, and Comet ISON because - according to Robert and Teresa at least - "Comet ISON is internationally known and has been a topic of popular discussion on the Internet since its discovery" (Gee Note: I don't know about you guys but my Twitter feed practically blew up with non stop ISON talk. It was all Comet this, and Comet that. And then Harry Styles got a new haircut and Janice said it looked rubbish BUT JANICE IS A STUPID SLUT AND DOESN'T KNOW WHAT SHE'S TALKING ABOUT and things went back to normal. But still, crazy times).

The second was an open invitation announced in September 2013 to tweet or email the boffins using the hashtag #ICanChangeThePast2 before August 2013. The idea being that should you fancy a break from flying your TARDIS and fighting giant robot pepper pots with plungers, you can go back in time and show off a bit. (Gee Note: Sample tweet. Read it & weep suckas. I be all like yeaaaaahhhh you be all like damn! #ICanChangeThePast2 #Winning #DaFutureIzLost)

Alas here is where our story comes to an end, as despite their best efforts Nemiroff and Wilson failed to unearth any men or women visiting us from the year 3000.

Never fear though, because as the dynamic duo themselves put it "Although the negative results reported here may indicate that time travelers from the future are not among us and cannot communicate with us over the modern day Internet, they are by no means proof. There are many reasons for this. First, it may be physically impossible for time travelers to leave any lasting remnants of their stay in the past, including even non-corporeal informational remnants on the Internet. Next, it may be physically impossible for us to find such information as that would violate some yet-unknown law of physics, possibly similar to the Chronology Protection Conjecture. Furthermore, time travelers may not want to be found, and may be good at covering their tracks. Additionally, time travelers just may not have left the specific event tags that we were searching for. Finally, our searches were not comprehensive, so that even if time travelers left the exact event tags searched for here, we might have missed them due to human error, oversight, incompleteness of Internet catalogs and searches, or inaccurate content time tags."

So... a complete waste of time then.

Still, at least those brave souls at Michigan Tech tried to do something constructive with social media. Which is a lot more than can be said of Shia LaBeouf.