2007 - %3, July

Interview: Jack Carneal, Founder of Yaala Yaala

| Thu Jul. 19, 2007 2:46 PM EDT

mojo-photo-yaala1.jpgEight years ago, 31-year-old teacher Jack Carneal moved with his wife and young son to Bougouni, Mali. While his wife was busy researching rural education, Jack became immersed in the region's home-grown musical culture, buying up hand-copied cassettes and recording live street performances. Upon returning to the states, his handing out of Mali mix-tapes for friends grew into Yaala Yaala Records, an imprint of Chicago's Drag City dedicated to bringing Malian music to more listeners. We exchanged e-mails this week.

What was daily life like in your village in Mali?

It was based on domestic rituals: hanging out with neighbors, going to the market, taking naps, preparing meals. Our son was only 2 when we were there so much of our lives—the joys and stresses—revolved around our being relatively new parents, and in such a dynamic environment, to boot. On the main it was fantastic but we lived in a cinderblock house with a tin roof, and when daytime temps got up to 115 we often longed to be elsewhere.

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How difficult was the process of tracking down musicians, getting their permission to record them, and, well, getting a good take?

The 'getting a good take' part was so simple as to be nonexistent. They played, I recorded. The musicians, in many cases, would've been performing regardless of whether or not I was there, and in the other cases I'd met the musicians and hung out with them a little bit before recording them.

I was, coincidentally, obsessing over Malian duo Amadou & Mariam's Dimanche a Bamako when I happened upon the Yaala Yaala releases, but then I saw on your label's site that they're dismissed as music for "export", and not really part of the local musical culture. I had thought I recognized some similar musical motifs, but am I just a naïve westerner thinking French fries make me an expert on French cuisine?

I love Amadou and Miriam, actually, but yes, they were never once mentioned out in Bougouni. There is a scale that a lot of Malian and West African music is based on and a similar long descending melody line in some tunes as well, ergo the audible similarity.

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Clean Up That Mosh Pit When You're Done

| Thu Jul. 19, 2007 2:42 PM EDT

Ever seen an arena after a big show? It's an apocalyptic nightmare of trash, grime, beer bottles, cigarette butts, random articles of clothing, and sweat; not to mention the huge chunk of energy that was used to power stage lights, amps, sound boards and speakers.

Well, the green-friendly folks at Reverb, a nonprofit founded by an environmentalist and a musician, want to reduce the "environmental footprint" of big touring shows this summer—not just by recycling and reducing plastic waste at shows, but by using biodiesel tour buses and generators, eco-friendly merchandise, and biodegradable catering products. They're also setting up Eco-Villages at shows to educate folks about carbon offsets and green technologies.

Who is Reverb tagging along with this summer? Pretty boy John Mayer, The Fray, the Beastie Boys, and Brandi Carlile, who by the way is donating $.50 from every ticket back to Reverb.

So, I guess it's not cool to show up to the rock show with your pals in a gas-guzzling Ford pickup and throw beer cans all over the parking lot anymore...

Mother Jones is Going to do What? When?

| Thu Jul. 19, 2007 12:25 PM EDT

After 31 years of path-breaking independent investigative journalism, Mother Jones has decided to really shake things up, and you're part of it. We're launching something bold, something big, and something brand new. Check back with us on July 23rd to find out more.

Jay Harris
President & Publisher

Daughter of Jailed Iranian American Writes About "Brutal Men Going About Their Brutal Business"

| Thu Jul. 19, 2007 11:30 AM EDT

Yesterday Iran's new 24 hour TV channel broadcast a "documentary" featuring two jailed Iranian Americans, Haleh Esfandiari, of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant to the Open Society Institute. Both are being held in Evin prison. Esfandiari had been robbed of her passport in December while visiting her ailing 93 year old mother in Tehran, and since then has been undergoing interrogation by Iran's secret police, then house arrrest, and for the past 70 days, solitary confinement in Iran's notorious Evin prison. The 63 year old grandmother had run programs at the Woodrow Wilson Center that sought more than any other think tank I am aware of to promote US-Iran engagement. Its president, Lee Hamilton, a co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, has urged the Bush administration to talk with Iran.

Esfandiari's daugther Haleh Bakhash, a lawyer in Washington, writes in the Washington Post today about her mother's interrogators:

Is the Federal Contracting System Out of Whack?

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 10:36 PM EDT

Meet Robin Smith. A veteran of the Air Force, she once guarded military aircraft bearing nuclear weapons before going to work for Wackenhut, the Florida-based private security giant that took in $400 million in federal contracts last year (and $516 million the year prior). Between June 2005 and April 2006, Smith served as a security officer at the Department of Homeland Security's Washington headquarters, where she says she witnessed a litany of security lapses by Wackenhut employees: guards who fell asleep at their posts, who were allowed to carry weapons after repeatedly flunking certification tests on the company's gun range, and who gained access to sensitive locations without the requisite security clearances. On numerous occasions, she says, she saw the door to the guards' armory left open and unattended, allowing anyone access to the cache of weapons and ammunition inside.

But the most egregious breach happened in the fall of 2005, when a DHS staffer opened a letter containing white powder. Instead of quarantining the area, or calling for a hazmat team, the security guards who responded to the scene handled the envelope themselves and called others over to have a look at the suspicious powder. They also directed the employee who had opened the letter, and who had spilled some of its contents on herself, to wash the powder off. To do so she walked across a hall and past Michael Chertoff's office, putting the Homeland Security secretary himself and other employees at risk of contamination. "I've never seen anything like the way Wackenhut ran Homeland Security," Smith told the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement today. "I've never seen any company disrespect a government contract like Wackenhut did."

In the Midst Of Vitter Scandal, Let Us Not Forget David Almond

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 10:04 PM EDT

Republican David Almond, vice chairman of the House Committee on Children, Youth and Families for the North Carolina state legislature, resigned last week after the state's GOP caucus said it was investigating allegations against him of "serious, improper behavior."

According to DownWithTyranny!, Almond exposed his penis to a female staff member, chased her around the room, and commanded her to "suck it, baby, suck it." The employee filed a personnel complaint against Almond. State Republican leaders asked Almond to resign if there was any truth to the allegation, but, they said, "He did it [resigned] himself." I'm not sure what that means, but that is what they said.

One of the pieces of legistlation introduced by Almond was a bill to monitor sex offenders, which was recently signed into law by the governor, and which could come back to bite Almond on the--well, wherever he is most likely to be bitten. In the meantime, he says that intends to defend himself against the charges.

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Meat Is Murder On The Environment

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 6:55 PM EDT

A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home. This, according to New Scientist's Daniele Fanelli, is the conclusion of a study out of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan. The team looked at the effects of beef production on global warming, water acidification and eutrophication, and energy consumption. They focussed on calf production, animal management, and the effects of producing and transporting feed, to calculate the total environmental load of a portion of beef. They concluded that a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometers (155 miles), and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days. The calculations did not include the impact of managing farm infrastructure and transporting the meat, so the total environmental load is even higher. . . Still want that burger? How about one of these instead? Yum yum. JULIA WHITTY

Mika Not the First to be Coy About His Sexuality

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 6:41 PM EDT

mojo-photo-mika.jpgUK pop sensation Mika recently topped the charts in the UK with "Grace Kelly," a bouncy slice of "Queen lite" that some found grating. Despite the, well, glammy nature of his music (and a song about a gay love affair on his CD), Mika has famously refrained from revealing his own sexuality, recently appearing on the cover of Out magazine beside the headline: "Gay/Post-Gay/Not Gay?"

But, of course, Mika's not the first guy to play the "sexuality is a private matter" card, and it's interesting to note that many of the musicians we now take for granted as torch-bearing homophiles were just hinting at it for years. Logo's After Elton site has a fascinating look at male rock and pop stars who have "straddled the closet," as they put it. It's actually kind of depressing: does every gay artist have to blather endlessly about not wanting to be "pigeonholed" as a "gay artist?" Even Jake Shears of gayer-than-a-thousand-Liberace-candelabras combo Scissor Sisters has the eye-rolling quote of "I'm not a gay man first and foremost." Jeez, lighten up! Do ya wanna make out, or not?! It's heartening to see up-and-coming musicians like (super-cute) Dan Sells of The Feeling who's utterly blasé about it, saying he marched in his first pride parade at age 4. Check out the article here.

And yes, just to be clear, your writer is absolutely a gay man first and foremost. Before being a geek, and a fan of snack foods, even. ...Okay maybe not before snacks.

Elevated Leukemia Rates In Children & Young Adults Near Nuclear Facilities

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 6:28 PM EDT

Leukemia rates in children and young people are elevated near nuclear facilities. The research, published in European Journal of Cancer Care, came from a meta-analysis of 17 research papers covering 136 nuclear sites in the UK, Canada, France, the USA, Germany, Japan and Spain. Death rates for children up to the age of nine were elevated by between five and 24 per cent, depending on their proximity to nuclear facilities, and by two to 18 per cent in children and young people to the age of 25. No clear explanation exists to explain the rise. The authors say it's "possible that there are environmental issues involved that we don't yet understand" . . . Right. Like chronic underreporting of mishaps, accidents, and releases &mdash as recently as yesterday, by golly. JULIA WHITTY

The Stork Is The Bird Of War

| Wed Jul. 18, 2007 5:34 PM EDT

Worried about too many Homo sapiens? Wanna help with a (gentle) reset button? Check out the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

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This post comes to you thanks to a blog comment of note (no, not the eejit ones…) JULIA WHITTY